Atmospheric moisture transport: the bridge between ocean evaporation and Arctic ice melting

L. Gimeno, M. Vázquez, R. Nieto, R. M. Trigo
Earth Syst. Dynam., 6, 583–589, 2015. doi: 10.5194/esd-6-583-2015

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Changes in the atmospheric moisture transport have been proposed as a vehicle for interpreting some of the most significant changes in the Arctic region. The increasing moisture over the Arctic during the last decades is not strongly associated with the evaporation that takes place within the Arctic area itself, despite the fact that the sea ice cover is decreasing. Such an increment is consistent and is more dependent on the transport of moisture from the extratropical regions to the Arctic that has increased in recent decades and is expected to increase within a warming climate. This increase could be due either to changes in circulation patterns which have altered the moisture sources, or to changes in the intensity of the moisture sources because of enhanced evaporation, or a combination of these two mechanisms. In this short communication we focus on the more objective assessment of the strong link between ocean evaporation trends and Arctic Sea ice melting. We will critically analyse several recent results suggesting links between moisture transport and the extent of sea ice in the Arctic, this being one of the most distinct indicators of continuous climate change both in the Arctic and on a global scale. To do this we will use a sophisticated Lagrangian approach to develop a more robust framework on some of these previous disconnecting results, using new information and insights. Results reached in this study stress the connection between two climate change indicators, namely an increase in evaporation over source regions (mainly the Mediterranean Sea, the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Pacific Ocean in the paths of the global western boundary currents and their extensions) and Arctic ice melting precursors.