The effects of boreal forest expansion on the summer Arctic frontal zone

Stefan Liess, Peter K. Snyder, Keith J. Harding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Over the last 100 years, Arctic warming has resulted in a longer growing season in boreal and tundra ecosystems. This has contributed to a slow northward expansion of the boreal forest and a decrease in the surface albedo. Corresponding changes to the surface and atmospheric energy budgets have contributed to a broad region of warming over areas of boreal forest expansion. In addition, mesoscale and synoptic scale patterns have changed as a result of the excess energy at and near the surface. Previous studies have identified a relationship between the positioning of the boreal forest-tundra ecotone and the Arctic frontal zone in summer. This study examines the climate response to hypothetical boreal forest expansion and its influence on the summer Arctic frontal zone. Using the Weather Research and Forecasting model over the Northern Hemisphere, an experiment was performed to evaluate the atmospheric response to expansion of evergreen and deciduous boreal needleleaf forests into open shrubland along the northern boundary of the existing forest. Results show that the lower surface albedo with forest expansion leads to a local increase in net radiation and an average hemispheric warming of 0. 6°C at and near the surface during June with some locations warming by 1-2°C. This warming contributes to changes in the meridional temperature gradient that enhances the Arctic frontal zone and strengthens the summertime jet. This experiment suggests that continued Northern Hemisphere high-latitude warming and boreal forest expansion might contribute to additional climate changes during the summer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1805-1827
Number of pages23
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - May 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study and the material herein are based upon work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Grant No. ATM-0840048. This work was carried out in part using computing resources at the University of Minnesota Supercomputing Institute. The authors are indebted to two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on this manuscript.


  • Arctic
  • Arctic front
  • Boreal forest
  • Climate change


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