Scientific References

Peer Reviewed Literature: Arctic cyclone water vapor isotopes support past sea ice retreat recorded in Greenland ice

Presented at
Nature Scientific Reports, 5, Article Number: 10295, doi: 10.1038/srep10295, May 29, 2015


Rapid Arctic warming is associated with important water cycle changes: sea ice loss, increasing atmospheric humidity, permafrost thaw, and water-induced ecosystem changes. Understanding these complex modern processes is critical to interpreting past hydrologic changes preserved in paleoclimate records and predicting future Arctic changes. Cyclones are a prevalent Arctic feature and water vapor isotope ratios during these events provide insights into modern hydrologic processes that help explain past changes to the Arctic water cycle. Here we present continuous measurements of water vapor isotope ratios (δ18O, δ2H, d-excess) in Arctic Alaska from a 2013 cyclone. This cyclone resulted in a sharp d-excess decrease and disproportional δ18O enrichment, indicative of a higher humidity open Arctic Ocean water vapor source. Past transitions to warmer climates inferred from Greenland ice core records also reveal sharp decreases in d-excess, hypothesized to represent reduced sea ice extent and an increase in oceanic moisture source to Greenland Ice Sheet precipitation. Thus, measurements of water vapor isotope ratios during an Arctic cyclone provide a critical processed-based explanation, and the first direct confirmation, of relationships previously assumed to govern water isotope ratios during sea ice retreat and increased input of northern ocean moisture into the Arctic water cycle.