Simulated Arctic Ocean Freshwater Budgets in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

Marika M. Holland National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado

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Joel Finnis Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

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Mark C. Serreze National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

The Arctic Ocean freshwater budgets in climate model integrations of the twentieth and twenty-first century are examined. An ensemble of six members of the Community Climate System Model version 3 (CCSM3) is used for the analysis, allowing the anthropogenically forced trends over the integration length to be assessed. Mechanisms driving trends in the budgets are diagnosed, and the implications of changes in the Arctic–North Atlantic exchange on the Labrador Sea and Greenland–Iceland–Norwegian (GIN) Seas properties are discussed. Over the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries, the Arctic freshens as a result of increased river runoff, net precipitation, and decreased ice growth. For many of the budget terms, the maximum 50-yr trends in the time series occur from approximately 1975 to 2025, suggesting that we are currently in the midst of large Arctic change. The total freshwater exchange between the Arctic and North Atlantic increases over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries with decreases in ice export more than compensated for by an increase in the liquid freshwater export. Changes in both the liquid and solid (ice) Fram Strait freshwater fluxes are transported southward by the East Greenland Current and partially removed from the GIN Seas. Nevertheless, reductions in GIN sea ice melt do result from the reduced Fram Strait transport and account for the largest term in the changing ocean surface freshwater fluxes in this region. This counteracts the increased ocean stability due to the warming climate and helps to maintain GIN sea deep-water formation.

* The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation

Corresponding author address: Marika M. Holland, National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. Email: mholland@ucar.edu

Abstract

The Arctic Ocean freshwater budgets in climate model integrations of the twentieth and twenty-first century are examined. An ensemble of six members of the Community Climate System Model version 3 (CCSM3) is used for the analysis, allowing the anthropogenically forced trends over the integration length to be assessed. Mechanisms driving trends in the budgets are diagnosed, and the implications of changes in the Arctic–North Atlantic exchange on the Labrador Sea and Greenland–Iceland–Norwegian (GIN) Seas properties are discussed. Over the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries, the Arctic freshens as a result of increased river runoff, net precipitation, and decreased ice growth. For many of the budget terms, the maximum 50-yr trends in the time series occur from approximately 1975 to 2025, suggesting that we are currently in the midst of large Arctic change. The total freshwater exchange between the Arctic and North Atlantic increases over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries with decreases in ice export more than compensated for by an increase in the liquid freshwater export. Changes in both the liquid and solid (ice) Fram Strait freshwater fluxes are transported southward by the East Greenland Current and partially removed from the GIN Seas. Nevertheless, reductions in GIN sea ice melt do result from the reduced Fram Strait transport and account for the largest term in the changing ocean surface freshwater fluxes in this region. This counteracts the increased ocean stability due to the warming climate and helps to maintain GIN sea deep-water formation.

* The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation

Corresponding author address: Marika M. Holland, National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. Email: mholland@ucar.edu

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