Climate Dynamics Group
at the University of California, Santa Cruz

Sea ice and atmospheric circulation shape the high-latitude lapse rate feedback

research paper
  • Nicole Feldl
  • Stephen Po-Chedley
  • Hansi Singh
  • Stephanie Hay
  • Paul Kushner
updates ↓

10/22/20 Feldl, N., S. Po-Chedley, H. K. A Singh, S. Hay, and P. J. Kushner (2020), npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, 3, 41, doi:10.1038/s41612-020-00146-7.

Arctic amplification of anthropogenic climate change is widely attributed to the sea-ice albedo feedback, with its attendant increase in absorbed solar radiation, and to the effect of the vertical structure of atmospheric warming on Earth’s outgoing longwave radiation. The latter lapse rate feedback is subject, at high latitudes, to a myriad of local and remote influences whose relative contributions remain unquantified. The distinct controls on the high-latitude lapse rate feedback are here partitioned into upper and lower contributions originating above and below a characteristic climatological isentropic surface that separates the high-latitude lower troposphere from the rest of the atmosphere. This decomposition clarifies how the positive high-latitude lapse rate feedback over polar oceans arises primarily as an atmospheric response to local sea ice loss and is reduced in subpolar latitudes by an increase in poleward atmospheric energy transport. The separation of the locally driven component of the high-latitude lapse rate feedback further reveals how it and the sea-ice albedo feedback together dominate Arctic amplification as a coupled mechanism operating across the seasonal cycle.