Increased knowledge of climate change in the Arctic

Changed wind patterns and varying circulation in the ocean affect the future of the Arctic. Researchers have ascertained this after nearly four years of work in a multidisciplinary project to increase knowledge of the climate in the Arctic.

The Arctic is warming faster than other areas of the planet. Researchers are working to increase knowledge of the processes that affect this development. Changed wind patterns and changes to the circulation in the ocean are significant for how the increasingly thinner sea ice in the Arctic is spreading.

"Earlier, the processes in the Arctic have been more isolated, but now we are seeing a greater exchange with the surrounding regions. For example, we now have more north-south winds, which bring a larger inflow of moist air to the Arctic and which carries the cold out from the Arctic," says Ralf Döscher, climate researcher at SMHI’s Rossby Centre.

Changes affect the sea ice

A great deal of fresh water from rivers is channelled out along the northern European and Asian coasts. Research shows that an upper layer of fresh water just beneath the sea ice protects the ice from the affects of warmer water masses from the surrounding seas.

"We can see long fluctuations in the sea’s transport of warmth from the Atlantic to the Arctic. This affects the edge of the sea ice, which draws back as the supply of warmth increases," explains Ralf Döscher.

The sea ice cover will continue to decline, yet large variations from year to year are likely.

"Sea ice forecasts far into the future are associated with large uncertainties. So I think it is more pertinent to find out what the decline in sea ice in the Arctic means for the whole Arctic region, than trying to forecast exactly when it will disappear. Long before the ice has completely disappeared, it will have had a major impact in the area. Forecasts for the next few years, however, have the potential to be developed," adds Ralf Döscher.

Collaboration and multidisciplinarity

SMHI's climate research unit Rossby Centre has led the multidisciplinary project ADSIMNOR. The project links together process understanding and model development with new climate scenarios and user studies. Researchers from several institutions have participated.

Researchers from Stockholm University have broadened the knowledge of feedback processes in the climate system, among others, in connection with cloudiness with and humidity. From the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, researchers have shown that future climate scenarios in conjunction with statistical information can be used to simulate permafrost changes in local areas, such as Swedish Torneträsk.

At Lund University, researchers have examined how climate change affects vegetation in northern Europe and Asia. They have established that the vegetation boundary will move north and the eco-system will continue to bind carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

An important part of the work has been a close user dialogue. As the project has progressed, representatives of the reindeer industry, traffic and tourism have held talks with researchers about the objective of the research and information for users.

ADSIMNOR (ADvanced Simulation of Arctic Climate Change and IMpact on NOrthern Regions) is a four year project funded by FORMAS. The project will end in 2014.