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Controls on Arctic Sea Ice from First-Year and Multiyear Ice Survivability

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  • 1 Department of Physics, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  • | 2 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  • | 3 School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  • | 4 T-3 Fluid Dynamics and Solid Mechanics Group, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico
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Abstract

Recent observations of Arctic sea ice show that the decrease in summer ice cover over the last few decades has occurred in conjunction with a significant loss of multiyear ice. The transition to an Arctic that is populated by thinner, first-year sea ice has important implications for future trends in area and volume. Here, a reduced model for Arctic sea ice is developed. This model is used to investigate how the survivability of first-year and multiyear ice controls the mean state, variability, and trends in ice area and volume. A hindcast with a global dynamic–thermodynamic sea ice model that traces first-year and multiyear ice is used to estimate the survivability of each ice type. These estimates of survivability, in concert with the reduced model, yield persistence time scales of September area and volume anomalies and the characteristics of the sensitivity of sea ice to climate forcing that compare well with a fully coupled climate model. The September area is found to be nearly in equilibrium with climate forcing at all times, and therefore the observed decline in summer sea ice cover is a clear indication of a changing climate. Keeping an account of first-year and multiyear ice area within global climate models offers a powerful way to evaluate those models with observations, and could help to constrain projections of sea ice decline in a warming climate.

Corresponding author address: Kyle Armour, Dept. of Physics, University of Washington, Box 351560, Seattle, WA 98195. E-mail: karmour@u.washington.edu

Abstract

Recent observations of Arctic sea ice show that the decrease in summer ice cover over the last few decades has occurred in conjunction with a significant loss of multiyear ice. The transition to an Arctic that is populated by thinner, first-year sea ice has important implications for future trends in area and volume. Here, a reduced model for Arctic sea ice is developed. This model is used to investigate how the survivability of first-year and multiyear ice controls the mean state, variability, and trends in ice area and volume. A hindcast with a global dynamic–thermodynamic sea ice model that traces first-year and multiyear ice is used to estimate the survivability of each ice type. These estimates of survivability, in concert with the reduced model, yield persistence time scales of September area and volume anomalies and the characteristics of the sensitivity of sea ice to climate forcing that compare well with a fully coupled climate model. The September area is found to be nearly in equilibrium with climate forcing at all times, and therefore the observed decline in summer sea ice cover is a clear indication of a changing climate. Keeping an account of first-year and multiyear ice area within global climate models offers a powerful way to evaluate those models with observations, and could help to constrain projections of sea ice decline in a warming climate.

Corresponding author address: Kyle Armour, Dept. of Physics, University of Washington, Box 351560, Seattle, WA 98195. E-mail: karmour@u.washington.edu
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