The Arctic response to remote and local forcing of black carbon
1Department of Geosciences, Meteorology and Oceanography Section, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
2National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA
3Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Oslo, Norway
Abstract. Recent studies suggest that the Arctic temperature response to black carbon (BC) forcing depend on the location of the forcing. We investigate how BC in the mid-latitudes remotely influence the Arctic climate, and compare this with the response to BC located in the Arctic it self. In this study, idealized climate simulations are carried out with a fully coupled Earth System Model, which includes a comprehensive treatment of aerosol microphysics. In order to determine how BC transported to the Arctic and BC sources not reaching the Arctic impact the Arctic climate, forcing from BC aerosols is artificially increased by a factor of 10 in different latitude bands in the mid-latitudes (28° N–60° N) and in the Arctic (60° N–90° N), respectively. Estimates of the impact on the Arctic energy budget are represented by analyzing radiation fluxes at the top of the atmosphere, at the surface and at the lateral boundaries. Our calculations show that increased BC forcing in the Arctic atmosphere reduces the surface air temperature in the Arctic with a corresponding increase in the sea-ice fraction, despite the increased planetary absorption of sunlight. The analysis indicates that this effect may be due to a combination of a weakening of the northward heat transport caused by a reduction in the meridional temperature gradient and a reduction in the turbulent mixing of heat downward to the surface. The latter factor is explained by the fact that most of the BC is located in the free troposphere and causes a warming at higher altitudes which increases the static stability in the Arctic. On the other hand we find that BC forcing at the mid-latitudes warms the Arctic surface significantly and decreases the sea-ice fraction. Our model calculations indicate that atmospheric BC forcing outside the Arctic is more important for the Arctic climate change than the forcing in the Arctic itself. Although the albedo effect of BC on snow does show a more regional response to an Arctic forcing, these results suggest that mitigation strategies for the Arctic climate should also address BC sources in locations outside the Arctic even if they do not contribute much to BC in the Arctic.