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Twenty-First-Century Arctic Climate Change in CCSM4

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  • 1 Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
  • | 2 National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado
  • | 3 Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

The authors summarize the twenty-first-century Arctic climate simulated by NCAR’s Community Climate System Model, version 4 (CCSM4). Under a strong radiative forcing scenario, the model simulates a much warmer, wetter, cloudier, and stormier Arctic climate with considerably less sea ice and a fresher Arctic Ocean. The high correlation among the variables composing these changes—temperature, precipitation, cloudiness, sea level pressure (SLP), and ice concentration—suggests that their close coupling collectively represents a fingerprint of Arctic climate change. Although the projected changes in CCSM4 are generally consistent with those in other GCMs, several noteworthy features are identified. Despite more global warming in CCSM4, Arctic changes are generally less than under comparable greenhouse forcing in CCSM3, as represented by Arctic amplification (16% weaker) and the date of a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean (20 years later). Autumn is the season of the most pronounced Arctic climate change among all the primary variables. The changes are very similar across the five ensemble members, although SLP displays the largest internal variability. The SLP response exhibits a significant trend toward stronger extreme Arctic cyclones, implying greater wave activity that would promote coastal erosion. Based on a commonly used definition of the Arctic (the area encompassing the 10°C July air temperature isotherm), the region shrinks by about 40% during the twenty-first century, in conjunction with a nearly 10-K warming trend poleward of 70°N. Despite this pronounced long-term warming, CCSM4 simulates a hiatus in the secular Arctic climate trends during a decade-long stretch in the 2040s and to a lesser extent in the 2090s. These pauses occur despite averaging over five ensemble members and are remarkable because they happen under the most extreme greenhouse-forcing scenario and in the most climatically sensitive region of the world.

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

Corresponding author address: Stephen Vavrus, Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1225 W. Dayton St., Madison, WI 53706. E-mail: sjvavrus@wisc.edu

This article is included in the CCSM4 Special Collection.

Abstract

The authors summarize the twenty-first-century Arctic climate simulated by NCAR’s Community Climate System Model, version 4 (CCSM4). Under a strong radiative forcing scenario, the model simulates a much warmer, wetter, cloudier, and stormier Arctic climate with considerably less sea ice and a fresher Arctic Ocean. The high correlation among the variables composing these changes—temperature, precipitation, cloudiness, sea level pressure (SLP), and ice concentration—suggests that their close coupling collectively represents a fingerprint of Arctic climate change. Although the projected changes in CCSM4 are generally consistent with those in other GCMs, several noteworthy features are identified. Despite more global warming in CCSM4, Arctic changes are generally less than under comparable greenhouse forcing in CCSM3, as represented by Arctic amplification (16% weaker) and the date of a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean (20 years later). Autumn is the season of the most pronounced Arctic climate change among all the primary variables. The changes are very similar across the five ensemble members, although SLP displays the largest internal variability. The SLP response exhibits a significant trend toward stronger extreme Arctic cyclones, implying greater wave activity that would promote coastal erosion. Based on a commonly used definition of the Arctic (the area encompassing the 10°C July air temperature isotherm), the region shrinks by about 40% during the twenty-first century, in conjunction with a nearly 10-K warming trend poleward of 70°N. Despite this pronounced long-term warming, CCSM4 simulates a hiatus in the secular Arctic climate trends during a decade-long stretch in the 2040s and to a lesser extent in the 2090s. These pauses occur despite averaging over five ensemble members and are remarkable because they happen under the most extreme greenhouse-forcing scenario and in the most climatically sensitive region of the world.

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

Corresponding author address: Stephen Vavrus, Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1225 W. Dayton St., Madison, WI 53706. E-mail: sjvavrus@wisc.edu

This article is included in the CCSM4 Special Collection.

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