Atmospheric Profiles, Clouds and the Evolution of Sea Ice Cover in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas

The role and magnitude of feedback processes, such as the ice-albedo feedback cannot be observed. They must be diagnosed from validated models that include the appropriate physics. For example, observational studies, attempting to discern the effect of clouds on sea ice (e.g. Schweiger et al 2008) confront the difficulty of separating cloud variability from other changes, such as atmospheric circulation. Model experiments that can isolate the role of a specific mechanism (e.g. Bitz, 2009) are needed to test and advance our current understanding of feedbacks in the atmosphere-ice-ocean system and to ultimately improve predictive capabilities for weather and climate. The role of observations in this context is to provide basic data for the evaluation of model parameterizations and to ascertain that models not only reproduce observed variability, but do so for the right reasons. The latter is particularly important if we want to have confidence in predictions for future climate.

This project will advance our understanding of seasonal ice zone (SIZ) cloud-ice feedbacks and our ability to forecast SIZ weather and ice conditions through the combination of carefully designed model experiments, observations, and technology developments which are targeted to validate and improve the models. Specifically we will pursue the following questions and objectives:

•Determine the role of clouds in modifying the evolution of the SIZ in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas from spring through fall.
•Determine how changes in sea ice and sea surface conditions in the SIZ affect changes in cloud cover.
•Determine the role additional atmospheric profile observations may play in improving the quality of weather forecasts and ice predictions for the SIZ of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
•Adapt a low cost, expendable, air-deployed micro-aircraft to obtain temperature and humidity profiles and cloud top and base heights