A proposed mechanism for the regulation of minimum midtropospheric temperatures in the Arctic

T. N. Chase, B. Herman, R. A. Pielke, X. Zeng, M. Leuthold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This paper documents an observed lower extreme of midtropospheric (500 mbar) temperatures in the Arctic of approximately -45°C during the winter season in several data sets. Each data set shows that the coldest air masses in the Arctic reach -45°C during the fall months but seldom get much colder even into late winter despite a continued net radiative loss. We demonstrate that midtropospheric temperatures are significantly skewed toward warmer temperatures, indicating a regulatory mechanism at work. We further provide evidence that minimum Arctic midtropospheric temperatures are regulated by moist convective processes and that minimum 500 mbar temperatures are controlled to a large extent by high-latitude sea surface temperatures. The temperature -45°C is the expected 500 mbar temperature in an atmosphere regulated by moist adiabatic ascent from a surface temperature of 1°-2° below 0°C, the approximate freezing point of seawater. This implies that Arctic air masses are regularly in contact with unfrozen seawater to the south, an easily verified observation. Climate model simulations of the effects of increased greenhouse gasses hypothesize that high, northern latitude regions should warm at a faster rate than the globe as a whole, a hypothesis which does not appear to have strong observational support. We discuss the implications of this result for the accelerated Arctic warming hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)XIII-XIV
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number14
StatePublished - 2002


  • Arctic convection
  • Atmosphere-ocean interactions
  • Temperature regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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