The impacts of El Niño on the observed sea ice budget of West Antarctica
We assess the impact of El Niño-induced wind changes on seasonal West Antarctic sea ice concentrations using reanalysis data and sea ice observations. A novel ice budget analysis reveals that in autumn a previously identified east-west dipole of sea ice concentration anomalies is formed by dynamic and thermodynamic processes in response to El Niño-generated circulation changes. The dipole features decreased (increased) concentration in the Ross Sea (Amundsen and Bellingshausen Seas). Thermodynamic processes and feedback make a substantial contribution to ice anomalies in all seasons. The eastward propagation of this anomaly is partly driven by mean sea ice drift rather than anomalous winds. Our results demonstrate that linkages between sea ice anomalies and atmospheric variability are highly nonlocal in space and time. Therefore, we assert that caution should be applied when interpreting the results of studies that attribute sea ice changes without accounting for such temporally and spatially remote linkages.
Authors: Pope, James O., Holland, Paul R., Orr, Andrew, Marshall, Gareth J., Phillips, Tony