EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Sensitivity of Atmosphere-Ocean Interactions during Cold Air Outbreaks to Characteristics of the Sea-Ice Edge

Thomas Spengler and Clemens Spensberger
Thomas Spengler and Clemens Spensberger
  • Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway (

Cold air outbreaks play a crucial role in the air-sea heat exchange in the higher latitudes. However, we still lack some basic understanding about the sensitivities of these phenomena to latent heating and the role of coupling to the ocean. Despite increasing model resolution, reliable forecasts of these events remain a challenge because of the vast range of scales and physical processes involved. To further explore these sensitivities and dependence on model representation, we couple a moist convective atmospheric boundary layer model with an ocean mixed layer model to investigate the response of moist convection as well as ocean mixing during cold air outbreaks. In addition, we perform sensitivity experiments based on the PolarWRF model in an idealised configuration to represent cold air outbreaks.

Varying sea ice concentration and resolution alters the distribution and intensity of the air-sea heat exchange with ramifications for mixed layer depths in both the atmosphere and ocean. Furthermore, integrated and local sensible and latent heat fluxes depend on the model resolution as well as the distribution of the sea-ice concentration in the marginal ice zone. While surface sensible heat fluxes appear to be rather consistent across different model resolutions, surface latent heat fluxes respond to the organisation of convection at higher resolutions, a feature that is absent for coarser model grids. Different geometries replacing a straight sea-ice edge with various simple geometrical shapes are also tested. Our results have implications for numerical weather prediction and climate models, in particular regarding model resolution and the degree of coupling for the representation of air-sea interaction during cold air outbreaks.

How to cite: Spengler, T. and Spensberger, C.: Sensitivity of Atmosphere-Ocean Interactions during Cold Air Outbreaks to Characteristics of the Sea-Ice Edge, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-5489,, 2020


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