S195 Examining Atmospheric Conditions during Variations in Satellite Derived Sea Ice and Snow Coverage in the Arctic

Sunday, 22 January 2017
4E (Washington State Convention Center )
Haylie Mikulak, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE

This study is an opportunity to gain a better understanding of how the changing climate and its impacts are affecting the Northern Hemisphere sea ice and snow cover extents. By studying how the Arctic has already changed from 1979 to 2012, this research begins to find the affects certain atmospheric conditions including precipitation, temperature, and pressure anomalies are having on the sea ice and snow cover extents.  The NASA Making Earth System Data Records for Use in Research Environments (MEaSUREs) Hemisphere Snow and Ice Earth System Data Record was examined in order to find variations of Northern Hemispheric sea ice and snow cover maximum and minimum extents.  Atmospheric conditions during the extreme maximum and minimum extents were retrieved using National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)/National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) reanalysis data from the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) for the study period.  Variables including geopotential height, temperature and precipitation anomalies were studied in order to examine if any patterns exist between these parameters and the strength of the maximum and minimum snow and ice coverage extents.  By finding an association with areas of abnormally low heights or high precipitation and sea ice and snow cover extents, researchers will be better able to predict future extents or conditions of the Arctic.  Conditions on Earth are continuing to change, which will have a major impact on how humans continue to inhabit the planet. Differences in the dates of maximum areas and seasonal lengths are only some of the variables that were studied in order to better comprehend the modifications occurring on the Earth.  Through the examination of the thirty-three year study period of sea ice and snow cover extents in the Northern Hemisphere, it appeared that the extent values seem to be very constant, despite the knowledge that these conditions have been considerably changing over the years.  The maximum cryototal extents were determined by taking the maximum daily/weekly area between the 1 January and 1 June. The maximum cryototal extent is approximately 62 million km2, occurring in late January through February during the study period.  The snow coverage maximum extent is around 47 million km2 and the sea ice extent would be just under 16 million km2.  The maximum area for both sea ice and snow cover has not changed significantly over the time period, however, for both parameters the date of maximum extent occurrence has been observed later in the year over the study period.  With a later date of maximum extent, the length of the snow or ice cover season would be expected to be longer.  On the contrary, the length of season appeared almost constant.  The examination of atmospheric conditions led to the realization that when studying snow coverage one of the two main landmasses, Eurasia or North America have strong anomalous values in geopotential heights or temperature while the other does not.  For example, when examining largest maximum snow coverage extents, Eurasia indicates much colder anomalies in surface temperature than that of North America.  Only one landmass needs to display a significant anomaly in temperature, precipitation, or pressure, however continued studies are needed in order to find out if the strength of the anomaly or the location of the anomaly has a stronger impact than just the presence of an anomaly.  Extent patterns and extreme circumstances defined by this study are identified in order for future studies to examine the atmospheric conditions to be able to determine, if the associated atmospheric conditions are driving the sea ice and snow coverage extents or the extents are driving the atmospheric conditions.
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