Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


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A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science Major: Geosciences Under the Supervision of Professor Mark Anderson Lincoln, Nebraska August, 2010 Copyright 2010 Angela C. Bliss


This study is designed to compare the monthly continental snow cover and sea ice extent loss in the Arctic with regional atmospheric conditions including: mean sea level pressure, 925 hPa air temperature, and mean wind direction among others during the melt season (March-August) over the 29-year study period 1979-2007. Little research has gone into studying the concurrent variations in the annual loss of continental snow cover and sea ice extent across the land-ocean boundary, since these data are largely stored in incompatible formats. However, the analysis of these data, averaged spatially over three autonomous study regions located in Siberia, North America, and Western Russia, reveals a distinct difference in the response of snow and sea ice to the atmospheric forcing. On average, sea ice extent is lost earlier in the year, in May, than snow cover, in June, although Arctic sea ice is located farther north than continental snow in all three study regions. Once the loss of snow and ice extent begins, snow cover is completely removed sooner than sea ice extent, even though ice loss begins earlier in the melt season. Further, the analysis of the atmospheric conditions surrounding loss of snow and ice cover over the independent study regions indicates that conditions of cool temperatures with strong northeasterly winds in the later melt season months are effective at removing sea ice cover, likely through ice divergence, as are warmer temperatures via southerly winds directly forcing melt. The results of this study set the framework for further analysis of the direct influence of snow cover loss on later melt season sea ice extents and the predictability of snow and sea ice extent responses to modeled future climate conditions