Changes in the climate of the Alaskan North Slope and the ice concentration of the adjacent Beaufort Sea
A reliable data set of Arctic sea ice concentration based on satellite observations exists since 1972. Over this time period of 36 years western arctic temperatures have increased; the temperature rise varies significantly from one season to another and over multi-year time scales. In contrast to most of Alaska, however, on the North Slope the warming continued after 1976, when a circulation change occurred, as expressed in the PDO index. The mean temperature increase for Barrow over the 36-year period was 2.9°C, a very substantial change. Wind speeds increased by 18% over this time period, however, the increase were non-linear and showed a peak in the early 1990s. The sea ice extent of the Arctic Ocean has decreased strongly in recent years, and in September 2007 a new record in the amount of open water was recorded in the Western Arctic. We observed for the Southern Beaufort Sea a fairly steady increase in the mean annual amount of open water from 14% in 1972 to 39% in 2007, as deduced from the best linear fit. In late summer the decrease is much larger, and September has, on average, the least ice concentration (22%), followed by August (35%) and October (54%). The correlation coefficient between mean annual values of temperature and sea ice concentration was 0.84. On a monthly basis, the best correlation coefficient was found in October with 0.88. However, the relationship between winter temperatures and the sea ice break-up in summer was weak. While the temperature correlated well with the CO2 concentration (r=0.86), the correlation coefficient between CO2 and sea ice was lower (r=−0.68). After comparing the ice concentration with 17 circulation indices, the best relation was found with the Pacific Circulation Index (r=−0.59).
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