Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Global and Arctic climate sensitivity enhanced by changes in North Pacific heat flux

August 14, 2018

Arctic amplification is a consequence of surface albedo, cloud, and temperature feedbacks, as well as poleward oceanic and atmospheric heat transport. However, the relative impact of changes in sea surface temperature (SST) patterns and ocean heat flux sourced from different regions on Arctic temperatures are not well constrained. We modify ocean-to-atmosphere heat fluxes in the North Pacific and North Atlantic in a climate model to determine the sensitivity of Arctic temperatures to zonal heterogeneities in northern hemisphere SST patterns. Both positive and negative ocean heat flux perturbations from the North Pacific result in greater global and Arctic surface air temperature anomalies than equivalent magnitude perturbations from the North Atlantic; a response we primarily attribute to greater moisture flux from the subpolar extratropics to Arctic. Enhanced poleward latent heat and moisture transport drive sea-ice retreat and low-cloud formation in the Arctic, amplifying Arctic surface warming through the ice-albedo feedback and infrared warming effect of low clouds. Our results imply that global climate sensitivity may be dependent on patterns of ocean heat flux in the northern hemisphere.

Publication Year 2018
Title Global and Arctic climate sensitivity enhanced by changes in North Pacific heat flux
DOI 10.1038/s41467-018-05337-8
Authors Summer K. Praetorius, Maria A. Rugenstein, Geeta Persad, Ken Caldeira
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Nature Communications
Index ID 70198643
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center