Articles | Volume 14, issue 14
Research article
29 Jul 2014
Research article |  | 29 Jul 2014

The complex response of Arctic aerosol to sea-ice retreat

J. Browse, K. S. Carslaw, G. W. Mann, C. E. Birch, S. R. Arnold, and C. Leck

Abstract. Loss of summertime Arctic sea ice will lead to a large increase in the emission of aerosols and precursor gases from the ocean surface. It has been suggested that these enhanced emissions will exert substantial aerosol radiative forcings, dominated by the indirect effect of aerosol on clouds. Here, we investigate the potential for these indirect forcings using a global aerosol microphysics model evaluated against aerosol observations from the Arctic Summer Cloud Ocean Study (ASCOS) campaign to examine the response of Arctic cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) to sea-ice retreat. In response to a complete loss of summer ice, we find that north of 70° N emission fluxes of sea salt, marine primary organic aerosol (OA) and dimethyl sulfide increase by a factor of ~ 10, ~ 4 and ~ 15 respectively. However, the CCN response is weak, with negative changes over the central Arctic Ocean. The weak response is due to the efficient scavenging of aerosol by extensive drizzling stratocumulus clouds. In the scavenging-dominated Arctic environment, the production of condensable vapour from oxidation of dimethyl sulfide grows particles to sizes where they can be scavenged. This loss is not sufficiently compensated by new particle formation, due to the suppression of nucleation by the large condensation sink resulting from sea-salt and primary OA emissions. Thus, our results suggest that increased aerosol emissions will not cause a climate feedback through changes in cloud microphysical and radiative properties.

Final-revised paper