EGU23-12939, updated on 26 Feb 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The contribution of Arctic marine heatwaves to the minimum sea ice extent as compound events

Armineh Barkhordarian1, David Nielsen2, and Johanna Baehr1
Armineh Barkhordarian et al.
  • 1Institute of Oceanography, Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN), Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  • 2Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany

On the global scale, the frequency of marine heatwaves (MHWs) is projected to increase further in the twenty-first Century. In our earlier study we demonstrate that the high-impact major marine heatwaves over the northeast Pacific are co-located with a systematically-forced long-term warming pool, which we attribute to forcing by elevated greenhouse gases levels (GHG), and the recent industrial aerosol-load decrease (Barkhordarian et al., 2022).  In current study we show that the magnitude of Arctic MHWs has significantly increased since 2006, and has exceeded the pre-industrial climate bounds since then. We here perform statistical attribution methodologies, and provide a quantitative assessment of whether GHG forcing was necessary for the Arctic MHWs to occur, and whether it is a sufficient cause for such events to continue to repeatedly occur in the future.

The probability of necessary causation of Arctic MHWs intensity, increases with increasing the severity of MHWs, and saturate to 1.0 by the time MHWs intensity exceeds the 2°C, indicating that any MHWs over the Arctic with an intensity higher than 2°C is entirely attributable to the inclusion of GHG forcing. These amplified extreme MHWs in the Arctic have each been accompanied by a record decline in Arctic Sea ice, in particular in the years 2007, 2012, 2016 and 2020. Over the last decade, MHWs occur in the Arctic where sea ice melt in June is 4 %/year faster, the ice-free season is ~3 months longer, the ocean heat-uptake is 50 W/m2 higher, and the sea surface temperature is ~2°C warmer, in comparison with the previous decade. In autumn surface evaporation rate is increasing, the increased low clouds favor more sea ice melt via emitting stronger longwave radiation. In summary, prolonged Arctic marine heatwaves, triggered by faster early summer sea ice melt, will accelerate Arctic warming, and cause Arctic Sea ice extent to shrink even faster in the near future.

Barkhordarian, A., Nielsen, D.M. & Baehr, J. Recent marine heatwaves in the North Pacific warming pool can be attributed to rising atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases. Nature Communications Earth & Environment, 3, 131 (2022).


How to cite: Barkhordarian, A., Nielsen, D., and Baehr, J.: The contribution of Arctic marine heatwaves to the minimum sea ice extent as compound events, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-12939,, 2023.