Theme 2: Arctic processes

Key Arctic climate processes, such as sea-ice processes, deep-water formation, and mixing in the ocean or the role of water vapor and clouds in the atmosphere are highly nonlinear and at present relatively poorly simulated in climate models.

This project will improve our understanding of these interacting components by further developing climate models with improved model physics and increased model resolution over the Arctic. New observations resulting from the International Polar Year, the DAMOCLES project and new satellite data sets, such as CloudSat and CALIPSO, will be used to better understand basic Arctic processes and evaluate the performance of the improved models.

The atmosphere-ocean exchange of heat, moisture and momentum and the interaction between changes in these processes and vertical ocean mixing in Shelf Seas will be investigated. These combined processes constitute key elements in determining trends and variability of the sea ice cover. Similarly, we aim to understand links between changed surface fluxes in ice-free regions and the response of Arctic weather systems, such as polar lows. Clouds play an important role in regulating the surface energy balance but are poorly described in current models. This is partly due to Arctic-specific processes in aerosol/cloud interaction, different in summer and in winter, that contribute to Arctic clouds.

We will address these processes primarily by applying the Arctic regional model RCAO and its ocean component RCO in hindcast and scenario mode. The influence of different parameterizations and forcing will be evaluated in sensitivity experiments and where feasible model improvements will be introduced.