Research

Cloud-Making Waves

Large waves send spray into the atmosphere.

As sea ice disappears in the Arctic Ocean, it leaves behind higher waves on the open water. These large waves help inject sea salt and organic matter into the atmosphere, where they can serve as nucleation sites for ice crystals. A recent field expedition in the Chukchi Sea observed high concentrations of organic particulates in the air and more ice-producing clouds during periods of high wave action. So, oddly enough, the loss of sea ice may lead to more cloud cover and precipitation in the Arctic (though the effect is likely not strong enough to entirely mitigate the effects of ice loss). It’s another example of the intricate and complex connections between ice, ocean, and atmosphere in the Arctic climate. (Image credit: A. Antas-Bergkvist; research credit: J. Inoue et al.; via Gizmodo)

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