Impact of downward longwave radiative deficits on Antarctic sea-ice extent predictability during the sea ice growth period

Ivana Cerovecki, Rui Sun, David H Bromwich, Xun Zou, Matthew R Mazloff, Sheng-Hung Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Forecasting Antarctic atmospheric, oceanic, and sea ice conditions on subseasonal to seasonal scales remains a major challenge. During both the freezing and melting seasons current operational ensemble forecasting systems show a systematic overestimation of the Antarctic sea-ice edge location. The skill of sea ice cover prediction is closely related to the accuracy of cloud representation in models, as the two are strongly coupled by cloud radiative forcing. In particular, surface downward longwave radiation (DLW) deficits appear to be a common shortcoming in atmospheric models over the Southern Ocean. For example, a recent comparison of ERA5 global reanalysis with the observations from McMurdo Station revealed a year-round deficit in DLW of approximately 50 Wm-2 in marine air masses due to model shortages in supercooled cloud liquid water. A comparison with the surface DLW radiation observations from the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) mooring in the South Pacific at 54.08°S, 89.67°W, for the time period Jan 2016 - Nov 2018, confirms approximately 20 Wm-2 deficit in DLW in ERA5 well north of the sea-ice edge. Using a regional ocean model, we show that when DLW is artificially increased by 50 Wm-2 in the simulation driven by ERA5 atmospheric forcing, the predicted sea ice growth agrees much better with the observations. A wide variety of sensitivity tests show that the anomalously large, predicted sea-ice extent is not due to limitations in the ocean model and that by implication the cause resides with the atmospheric forcing.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
StatePublished - Jun 30 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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