This study investigates the effect of sea ice reduction on Arctic cloud cover in historical simulations with the coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model MIROC5. Arctic sea ice has been substantially retreating since the 1980s, particularly in September, under simulated global warming conditions. The simulated sea ice reduction is consistent with satellite observations. On the other hand, Arctic cloud cover has been increasing in October, with about a 1-month lag behind the sea ice reduction. The delayed response leads to extensive sea ice reductions because the heat and moisture fluxes from the underlying open ocean into the atmosphere are enhanced. Sensitivity experiments with the atmospheric part of MIROC5 clearly show that sea ice reduction causes increases in cloud cover. Arctic cloud cover increases primarily in the lower troposphere, but it decreases in the near-surface layers just above the ocean; predominant temperature rises in these near-surface layers cause drying (i.e., decreases in relative humidity), despite increasing moisture flux. Cloud radiative forcing due to increases in cloud cover in autumn brings an increase in the surface downward longwave radiation (DLR) by approximately 40-60 % compared to changes in clear-sky surface DLR in fall. These results suggest that an increase in Arctic cloud cover as a result of reduced sea ice coverage may bring further sea ice retreat and enhance the feedback processes of Arctic warming.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atmospheric Science