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John PrytherchResearcher

About me

I am a research engineer and researcher working on Arctic atmospheric observations and air-sea trace gas exchange. My role is part of the Arctic Climate Across Scales (ACAS) project, funded by the Knut & Alice Wallenberg Foundation, aiming to explore the linkages of physical processes important for the Arctic climate across several spatial and temporal scales.

Formal responsibilities

  • Design, construction and operation of an Arctic meteorological observatory on the icebreaker Oden, comprising semi-autonomous in situ and surface-based remote sensing instrumentation.
  • Publication of quality-controlled observations on open-data archives.

Research interests

  • Air-sea interaction
  • Upper-ocean physics
  • Arctic meteorology

The current focus of my research is the exchange of trace gases (e.g. CO2, methane) between the ocean and the atmosphere at high latitude. In particular, the role of sea ice.


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Direct determination of the air-sea CO2 gas transfer velocity in Arctic sea ice regions

    2017. John Prytherch (et al.). Geophysical Research Letters 44 (8), 3770-3778


    The Arctic Ocean is an important sink for atmospheric CO2. The impact of decreasing sea ice extent and expanding marginal ice zones on Arctic air-sea CO2 exchange depends on the rate of gas transfer in the presence of sea ice. Sea ice acts to limit air-sea gas exchange by reducing contact between air and water but is also hypothesized to enhance gas transfer rates across surrounding open-water surfaces through physical processes such as increased surface-ocean turbulence from ice-water shear and ice-edge form drag. Here we present the first direct determination of the CO2 air-sea gas transfer velocity in a wide range of Arctic sea ice conditions. We show that the gas transfer velocity increases near linearly with decreasing sea ice concentration. We also show that previous modeling approaches overestimate gas transfer rates in sea ice regions.

    Read more about Direct determination of the air-sea CO2 gas transfer velocity in Arctic sea ice regions
  • Wind Speed and Sea State Dependencies of Air-Sea Gas Transfer

    2017. B. W. Blomquist (et al.). Journal of Geophysical Research - Oceans 122 (10), 8034-8062


    A variety of physical mechanisms are jointly responsible for facilitating air-sea gas transfer through turbulent processes at the atmosphere-ocean interface. The nature and relative importance of these mechanisms evolves with increasing wind speed. Theoretical and modeling approaches are advancing, but the limited quantity of observational data at high wind speeds hinders the assessment of these efforts. The HiWinGS project successfully measured gas transfer coefficients (k(660)) with coincident wave statistics under conditions with hourly mean wind speeds up to 24 m s(-1) and significant wave heights to 8 m. Measurements of k(660) for carbon dioxide (CO2) and dimethylsulfide (DMS) show an increasing trend with respect to 10 m neutral wind speed (U-10N), following a power law relationship of the form: k660CO2 approximate to U10N1.68 and k660dms approximate to U10N1.33. Among seven high wind speed events, CO2 transfer responded to the intensity of wave breaking, which depended on both wind speed and sea state in a complex manner, with k660CO2 increasing as the wind sea approaches full development. A similar response is not observed for DMS. These results confirm the importance of breaking waves and bubble injection mechanisms in facilitating CO2 transfer. A modified version of the Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment Gas transfer algorithm (COAREG ver. 3.5), incorporating a sea state-dependent calculation of bubble-mediated transfer, successfully reproduces the mean trend in observed k(660) with wind speed for both gases. Significant suppression of gas transfer by large waves was not observed during HiWinGS, in contrast to results from two prior field programs.

    Read more about Wind Speed and Sea State Dependencies of Air-Sea Gas Transfer
  • Wind, Convection and Fetch Dependence of Gas Transfer Velocity in an Arctic Sea‐Ice Lead Determined From Eddy Covariance CO2 Flux Measurements

    2021. John Prytherch, M. J. Yelland. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 35 (2)


    The air‐water exchange of trace gases such as CO2 is usually parameterized in terms of a gas transfer velocity, which can be derived from direct measurements of the air‐sea gas flux. The transfer velocity of poorly soluble gases is driven by near‐surface ocean turbulence, which may be enhanced or suppressed by the presence of sea ice. A lack of measurements means that air‐sea fluxes in polar regions, where the oceanic sink of CO2 is poorly known, are generally estimated using open‐ocean transfer velocities scaled by ice fraction. Here, we describe direct determinations of CO2 gas transfer velocity from eddy covariance flux measurements from a mast fixed to ice adjacent to a sea‐ice lead during the summer‐autumn transition in the central Arctic Ocean. Lead water CO2 uptake is determined using flux footprint analysis of water‐atmosphere and ice‐atmosphere flux measurements made under conditions (low humidity and high CO2 signal) that minimize errors due to humidity cross‐talk. The mean gas transfer velocity is found to have a quadratic dependence on wind speed: k660 = 0.179 U102, which is 30% lower than commonly used open‐ocean parameterizations. As such, current estimates of polar ocean carbon uptake likely overestimate gas exchange rates in typical summertime conditions of weak convective turbulence. Depending on the footprint model chosen, the gas transfer velocities also exhibit a dependence on the dimension of the lead, via its impact on fetch length and hence sea state. Scaling transfer velocity parameterizations for regional gas exchange estimates may therefore require incorporating lead width data.

    Read more about Wind, Convection and Fetch Dependence of Gas Transfer Velocity in an Arctic Sea‐Ice Lead Determined From Eddy Covariance CO2 Flux Measurements
  • Surface Heat and Moisture Exchange in the Marginal Ice Zone

    2021. A. D. Elvidge (et al.). Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres 126 (17)


    Aircraft observations from two Arctic field campaigns are used to characterize and model surface heat and moisture exchange over the marginal ice zone (MIZ). We show that the surface roughness lengths for heat and moisture over uninterrupted sea ice vary with roughness Reynolds number (R*; itself a function of the roughness length for momentum, z0, and surface wind stress), with a peak at the transition between aerodynamically smooth (R*<0.135) and aerodynamically rough (R*>2.5) regimes. A pre-existing theoretical model based on surface-renewal theory accurately reproduces this peak, in contrast to the simple parameterizations currently employed in two state-of-the-art numerical weather prediction models, which are insensitive to R*. We propose a new, simple parameterization for surface exchange over the MIZ that blends this theoretical model for sea ice with surface exchange over water as a function of sea ice concentration. In offline tests, this new scheme performs much better than the existing schemes for the rough conditions observed during the 'Iceland Greenland Seas Project' field campaign. The bias in total turbulent heat flux across the MIZ is reduced to only 13 W m(-2) for the new scheme, from 48 and 80 W m(-2) for the Met Office Unified Model and ECMWF Integrated Forecast System schemes, respectively. It also performs marginally better for the comparatively smooth conditions observed during the 'Aerosol-Cloud Coupling and Climate Interactions in the Arctic' field campaign. The new surface exchange scheme has the benefit of being physically-motivated, comparatively accurate and straightforward to implement, although to reap the full benefits an improvement to the representation of sea ice topography via z0 is required.

    Read more about Surface Heat and Moisture Exchange in the Marginal Ice Zone
  • Meteorological and cloud conditions during the Arctic Ocean 2018 expedition

    2021. Jutta Vüllers (et al.). Atmospheric Chemistry And Physics 21 (1), 289-314


    The Arctic Ocean 2018 (AO2018) took place in the central Arctic Ocean in August and September 2018 on the Swedish icebreaker Oden. An extensive suite of instrumentation provided detailed measurements of surface water chemistry and biology, sea ice and ocean physical and biogeochemical properties, surface exchange processes, aerosols, clouds, and the state of the atmosphere. The measurements provide important information on the coupling of the ocean and ice surface to the atmosphere and in particular to clouds. This paper provides (i) an overview of the synoptic-scale atmospheric conditions and their climatological anomaly to help interpret the process studies and put the detailed observations from AO2018 into a larger context, both spatially and temporally; (ii) a statistical analysis of the thermodynamic and near-surface meteorological conditions, boundary layer, cloud, and fog characteristics; and (iii) a comparison of the results to observations from earlier Arctic Ocean expeditions – in particular AOE1996 (Arctic Ocean Expedition 1996), SHEBA (Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean), AOE2001 (Arctic Ocean Experiment 2001), ASCOS (Arctic Summer Cloud Ocean Study), ACSE (Arctic Clouds in Summer Experiment), and AO2016 (Arctic Ocean 2016) – to provide an assessment of the representativeness of the measurements. The results show that near-surface conditions were broadly comparable to earlier experiments; however the thermodynamic vertical structure was quite different. An unusually high frequency of well-mixed boundary layers up to about 1 km depth occurred, and only a few cases of the “prototypical” Arctic summer single-layer stratocumulus deck were observed. Instead, an unexpectedly high amount of multiple cloud layers and mid-level clouds were present throughout the campaign. These differences from previous studies are related to the high frequency of cyclonic activity in the central Arctic in 2018.

    Read more about Meteorological and cloud conditions during the Arctic Ocean 2018 expedition
  • Arctic Summer Airmass Transformation, Surface Inversions, and the Surface Energy Budget

    2019. Michael Tjernström (et al.). Journal of Climate 32 (3), 769-789


    During the Arctic Clouds in Summer Experiment (ACSE) in summer 2014 a weeklong period of warm-air advection over melting sea ice, with the formation of a strong surface temperature inversion and dense fog, was observed. Based on an analysis of the surface energy budget, we formulated the hypothesis that, because of the airmass transformation, additional surface heating occurs during warm-air intrusions in a zone near the ice edge. To test this hypothesis, we explore all cases with surface inversions occurring during ACSE and then characterize the inversions in detail. We find that they always occur with advection from the south and are associated with subsidence. Analyzing only inversion cases over sea ice, we find two categories: one with increasing moisture in the inversion and one with constant or decreasing moisture with height. During surface inversions with increasing moisture with height, an extra 10-25 W m(-2) of surface heating was observed, compared to cases without surface inversions; the surface turbulent heat flux was the largest single term. Cases with less moisture in the inversion were often cloud free and the extra solar radiation plus the turbulent surface heat flux caused by the inversion was roughly balanced by the loss of net longwave radiation.

    Read more about Arctic Summer Airmass Transformation, Surface Inversions, and the Surface Energy Budget

Show all publications by John Prytherch at Stockholm University