20 Feb 2024
 | 20 Feb 2024

Quantifying the Impacts of Atmospheric Rivers on the Surface Energy Budget of the Arctic Based on Reanalysis

Chen Zhang, John J. Cassano, Mark Seefeldt, Hailong Wang, Weiming Ma, and Wen-wen Tung

Abstract. We present a comprehensive analysis of Arctic surface energy budget (SEB) components during atmospheric river (AR) events identified by integrated water vapor transport exceeding the monthly 85th percentile climatological threshold in 3-hourly ERA5 reanalysis data from January 1980 to December 2015. Analysis of average anomalies in SEB components, net SEB, and the overall AR contribution to the total seasonal SEB reveals clear seasonality and distinct land – sea – sea ice contrast patterns. Over the sea ice-covered central Arctic Ocean, ARs significantly impact net SEB, inducing substantial surface warming in fall, winter, and spring, primarily driven by large anomalies in surface downward longwave radiation. We find that ARs make a substantial relative contribution to the mean SEB in spring (32 %), exceeding their corresponding occurrence frequency (11 %). However, in other seasons, ARs contribute relatively less to the mean SEB than their frequency, indicating a diminished role compared to their occurrence frequency. Over sub-polar oceans, ARs have the most substantial positive impact on net SEB in cold seasons, mainly attributed to significant positive turbulent heat flux anomalies, with a maximum contribution to the mean SEB in spring averaging 65 %. In summer, ARs induce negative impacts on net SEB, primarily due to reduced shortwave radiation from increased cloud cover during AR events. Over continents, ARs generate smaller absolute impacts on net SEB but contribute significantly to the mean SEB in cold seasons, far surpassing their corresponding frequency, highlighting their crucial role in determining the net SEB over continents during cold seasons. Greenland, especially western Greenland, exhibits significant downward longwave radiation anomalies associated with ARs, which drive large net SEB anomalies and contribute >54 % to mean SEB, and induce amplified surface warming year-round. This holds significance for melt events, particularly during summer. This study quantifies the role of ARs on surface energy budget, contributing to our understanding of the Arctic warming and sea ice decline in ongoing Arctic amplification.

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Chen Zhang, John J. Cassano, Mark Seefeldt, Hailong Wang, Weiming Ma, and Wen-wen Tung

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-320', Jeff Ridley, 06 Mar 2024
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-320', Jonathan Wille, 21 Mar 2024
  • RC3: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-320', Anonymous Referee #3, 21 Mar 2024
Chen Zhang, John J. Cassano, Mark Seefeldt, Hailong Wang, Weiming Ma, and Wen-wen Tung
Chen Zhang, John J. Cassano, Mark Seefeldt, Hailong Wang, Weiming Ma, and Wen-wen Tung


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Short summary
An atmospheric river (AR) is a long, narrow corridor of moisture transport in the atmosphere. ARs are crucial for moisture and heat transport into the polar regions. Our study examines the role of ARs on the surface energy budget (SEB) in the Arctic. The results reveal distinct seasonality and land-sea-sea ice contrasts due to the impacts of ARs on the SEB. The conclusions provide greater insights into the current and future role of ARs on the Arctic climate system.