Impact of Atmospheric Rivers on Future Poleward Moisture Transport and Arctic Climate in EC-Earth2

M. Kolbe*, J.P.J. Sonnemans, R. Bintanja, E.C. van der Linden, K. van der Wiel, K. Whan, I. Benedict

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Alongside mean increases in poleward moisture transport (PMT) to the Arctic, most climate models also project a linear increase in the interannual variability (IAV) with future warming. It is still uncertain to what extent atmospheric rivers (ARs) contribute to the projected IAV increase of PMT. We analyzed large-ensemble climate simulations to (a) explore the link between PMT and ARs in the present-day (PD) and in two warmer climates (+2 and +3°C compared to pre-industrial global mean temperature), (b) assess the dynamic contribution to changes in future ARs, and (c) analyze the effect of ARs on Arctic climate on interannual timescales. We find that the share of AR-related PMT (ARPMT) to PMT increases from 42% in the PD to 53% in the +3°C climate. Our results show that the mean increases in AR-frequency and intensity are mainly caused by higher atmospheric moisture levels, while dynamic variability regulates regional ARs on an interannual basis. Notably, the amount of ARs reaching the Arctic in any given region and season strongly depends on the regional jet stream position and speed southwest of this region. This suggests that future changes in dynamics may significantly amplify or dampen the regionally consistent moisture-induced increase in ARs in a warmer climate. Our results further support previous findings that positive ARPMT anomalies are profoundly linked to increased surface air temperature and precipitation, especially in the colder seasons, and have a predominantly negative effect on sea ice.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023JD038926
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2023


  • Arctic climate
  • atmospheric rivers
  • interannual variability
  • poleward moisture transport
  • precipitation
  • sea ice


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