The Importance of Ice Vertical Resolution for Snowball Climate and Deglaciation

Dorian S. Abbot Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

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Ian Eisenman Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, and Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Raymond T. Pierrehumbert Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

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Abstract

Sea ice schemes with a few vertical levels are typically used to simulate the thermodynamic evolution of sea ice in global climate models. Here it is shown that these schemes overestimate the magnitude of the diurnal surface temperature cycle by a factor of 2–3 when they are used to simulate tropical ice in a Snowball earth event. This could strongly influence our understanding of Snowball termination, which occurs in global climate models when the midday surface temperature in the tropics reaches the melting point. A hierarchy of models is used to show that accurate simulation of surface temperature variation on a given time scale requires that a sea ice model resolve the e-folding depth to which a periodic signal on that time scale penetrates. This is used to suggest modifications to the sea ice schemes used in global climate models that would allow more accurate simulation of Snowball deglaciation.

Corresponding author address: Dorian Abbot, Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, 5734 South Ellis Ave., Chicago, IL 60637. Email: abbot@uchicago.edu

Abstract

Sea ice schemes with a few vertical levels are typically used to simulate the thermodynamic evolution of sea ice in global climate models. Here it is shown that these schemes overestimate the magnitude of the diurnal surface temperature cycle by a factor of 2–3 when they are used to simulate tropical ice in a Snowball earth event. This could strongly influence our understanding of Snowball termination, which occurs in global climate models when the midday surface temperature in the tropics reaches the melting point. A hierarchy of models is used to show that accurate simulation of surface temperature variation on a given time scale requires that a sea ice model resolve the e-folding depth to which a periodic signal on that time scale penetrates. This is used to suggest modifications to the sea ice schemes used in global climate models that would allow more accurate simulation of Snowball deglaciation.

Corresponding author address: Dorian Abbot, Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, 5734 South Ellis Ave., Chicago, IL 60637. Email: abbot@uchicago.edu

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