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Arctic warming aloft is data set dependent


Arising from: R. G. Graversen, T. Mauritsen, M. Tjernström, E. Källén & G. Svensson Nature 451, 53–56 (2008)10.1038/nature06502; Graversen et al. reply

Arctic sea ice and snow on land have retreated polewards at an alarming pace in the past few decades1. Such retreat locally amplifies surface warming through a positive feedback, which causes the Arctic surface to warm faster than the rest of the globe. In contrast, ice and snow retreat causes little warming in the atmosphere above when the stable winter atmosphere inhibits vertical heat exchange. We therefore find surprising the recent report by Graversen et al.2 in which they claim that recent Arctic atmospheric warming extends far deeper into the atmosphere than expected, and can even exceed the surface warming during the polar night. Using a different data set, we show that there is much less warming aloft in winter, consistent with the recent retreat of ice and snow, as well as recent changes in atmospheric heat transport.

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Figure 1: Temperature trends over the Northern Hemisphere (0°–82.5° N) and the Arctic (65° N–82.5° N) for 1979–2001.


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Bitz, C., Fu, Q. Arctic warming aloft is data set dependent. Nature 455, E3–E4 (2008).

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