Antarctic sea-ice relationships with indices of the atmospheric circulation of the Southern Hemisphere

Andrew Mark Carleton

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A link between the Antarctic sea-ice extent and low-frequency atmospheric variations, particularly ENSO, has been suggested by recent modeling and empirical studies. This question is examined here using a high-resolution (by week, by region) data base of Antarctic sea-ice extent for the 1973-1982 period. Although of relatively short duration by Northern Hemisphere standards, such a data base offers an opportunity rare in Southern Hemisphere climate studies. The seaice variations are examined in the context of longer-term indices of the large-scale atmospheric circulation. These are a Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) and an index of sea-level pressure (SLP) wavenumber one in the Southern Hemisphere extratropics. The indices are updated through 1982, and their associations with regional-scale pressure indices in the Australia-New Zealand sector are also examined. The 1973-1982 period is anomalous when compared with the period 1951-1972. Correlation analysis of the monthly sea ice and circulation index values reveals that much of the apparent link between the ice and the SOI suggested in previous studies arises from autocorrelations present in both data sets and the strong annual cycle of sea-ice extent. Removing these effects from the data and re-running the correlations reveals that most of the resulting "significant" associations between the ice and one or other of the circulation indices can probably be explained on the basis of chance. In order to reconcile these findings with previous studies that show some strong ice-circulation interactions on regional scales, only those months in which significant correlations occur between both largescale circulation indices and the sea ice are examined further. These occur preferentially in the Ross and Weddell sectors, which constitute the regions contributing most to the variability of Antarctic sea ice. The analysis suggests that the sea-ice-extent changes lag the SOI by several months but may precede changes in extratropical SLP wavenumber one. Confirmation of these tentative regional ice extent-circulation teleconnections necessarily awaits the forward extension of the high-resolution sea-ice data base beyond the 10 years available here.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-220
Number of pages14
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 1989

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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