Geophysical Research Letters Oceans, 28 May 2022

Rising temperatures have increased the frequency of winter melt events across the Arctic. These brief but intense melt events have contributed to nearly half of total sea ice loss in regions north of Svalbard. Major ocean currents carry warm Atlantic waters into the Arctic. During periods of strong winds, these warmer waters flow upwards toward the surface of the ocean, directly transferring heat into the floating layer of sea ice. This movement creates an intense period of short-term melt that greatly reduces sea ice cover during the winter. As global temperatures rise, these Atlantic currents will push increasing amounts of warm water into the Arctic; and short-term melt events will become more widespread and devastating to survival of winter sea ice, exacerbating warming in the Arctic region. This study underscores the critical role of ocean-ice interactions on the stability of Arctic sea ice cover, in winter as well as summer; and the consequences of accelerated sea ice loss on the global climate and ecosystems.