Articles | Volume 13, issue 1
Research article
09 Jan 2013
Research article |  | 09 Jan 2013

The Arctic response to remote and local forcing of black carbon

M. Sand, T. K. Berntsen, J. E. Kay, J. F. Lamarque, Ø. Seland, and A. Kirkevåg

Abstract. Recent studies suggest that the Arctic temperature response to black carbon (BC) forcing depend strongly on the location of the forcing. We investigate how atmospheric BC in the mid-latitudes remotely influence the Arctic climate, and compare this with the response to atmospheric BC located in the Arctic itself. 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, atmospheric BC concentrations are scaled up in the mid-latitudes (28–60° N) and in the Arctic (60–90° N), respectively. Estimates of the impact on the Arctic energy budget are represented by analyzing radiation fluxes at the top of the atmosphere and at the surface, surface turbulent fluxes, and meridional heat transport in the atmosphere. 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 is due to a combination of a weakening of the northward heat transport caused by a reduction in the meridional temperature gradient and a dimming at the surface. 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 may be more important for the Arctic climate change than the forcing in the Arctic itself. 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.

Final-revised paper