We are witnessing some of the strongest impacts of global warming in the “Atlantic Sector” of the Arctic, north of Norway. Warm Atlantic waters are encroaching on the sea ice, melting, and pushing back the ice edge. This is transforming the regional climate, challenging Northern Hemisphere weather forecasting, while revealing new opportunities for direct shipping along the Arctic’s Northern Sea Route.
It is crucial to monitor long-term trends in the sea ice cover, but ice in the Atlantic Sector has been notoriously difficult to accurately measure from space. Satellites have trouble separating the different types of sea ice in the region: younger and older ice types, thinner and thicker ice floes, and thicker snow often accumulates on the sea ice than in other sectors of the Arctic. In the INTERAAC project, we have assembled a complimentary team of experts from China and Norway to generate a multi-decade record of sea ice properties in the Atlantic Arctic from a constellation of satellite missions. We will combine different satellites that measure (1) the area and type of sea ice, (2) the thickness of the sea ice, and (3) the depth of snow accumulating on the ice. Others in our team will use ocean-based sensors that record the thickness and drift of the ice from below. By integrating all these datasets and expertise, we will be able to identify and remove the biases (differences between satellites) that currently prevent us from detecting climate-relevant decadal trends.
The processes coupling the atmosphere to the snow, sea ice and ocean are not well understood in the Atlantic Sector of the Arctic. So, we will combine our new sea ice Climate Data Record (CDR) with climate modelling experiments to investigate the exchanges of heat and energy stimulated by a retreating ice edge. For instance, we will examine whether changing sea ice conditions in the Atlantic Arctic are impacting extreme winter weather events over Eurasia.
The Arctic’s Eastern Sector is feeling the effects of global climate warming like few other places on Earth. Encroaching Atlantic waters are pushing back the sea ice edge, transforming the regional climate, revealing opportunities for shipping along the Northern Sea Route, and impacting Northern Hemisphere weather forecasting. However, satellite sensors have always struggled to accurately monitor sea ice trends in this dynamic and challenging region. The ice cover contains an ever-changing mix of older and younger ice types, a thick and variable snow load that obstructs ice thickness measurements, with an ice edge location that varies seasonally and between years. The INTERAAC project assembles a complimentary team of experts from China and Norway to generate a reconciled multi-mission Climate Data Record (CDR) of sea ice properties in the Atlantic Arctic. By integrating SAR, altimetry, and field observations, we will eliminate the inter-mission biases currently preventing detection of climate-relevant trends. Our new data will enable the investigation of coupled air-snow-ice-ocean processes driving sea ice retreat along the Atlantic Polar Front. Idealized sea ice-ocean model experiments, initialized with observations from the CDR, will allow us to identify the teleconnections between Atlantic Arctic sea ice conditions and extreme winter weather and climate forcing over Eurasia. INTERAAC will develop a close collaboration between five strong polar research institutions in China and Norway, targeting an exciting scientific goal with implications for the hydrology, climate, and predictability of the Atlantic Arctic and beyond. Our team will utilize existing Chinese and Norwegian investments in research infrastructure and field programmes in the Eastern Arctic, while equipping a new generation of young researchers with the skills to tackle future challenges of Arctic System Science.