Evolution of the Global Coupled Climate Response to Arctic Sea Ice Loss during 1990–2090 and Its Contribution to Climate Change

Lantao Sun Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, and Physical Sciences Division, NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Michael Alexander Physical Sciences Division, NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Clara Deser Climate and Global Dynamics, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

The role of transient Arctic sea ice loss in the projected greenhouse gas–induced late-twentieth- to late-twenty-first-century climate change is investigated using the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory’s Coupled Model version 3. Two sets of simulations have been conducted, one with representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 radiative forcing and the second with RCP forcing but with Arctic sea ice nudged to its 1990 state. The difference between the two five-member sets indicates the influence of decreasing Arctic sea ice on the climate system. Within the Arctic, sea ice loss is found to be a primary driver of the surface temperature and precipitation changes. Arctic sea ice depletion also plays a dominant role in projected Atlantic meridional overturning circulation weakening and changes in North Atlantic extratropical sea surface temperature and salinity, especially in the first half century. The effect of present-day Arctic sea ice loss on Northern Hemisphere (NH) extratropical atmospheric circulation is small relative to internal variability and the future sea ice loss effect on atmospheric circulation is distinct from the projected anthropogenic change. Arctic sea ice loss warms NH extratropical continents and is an important contributor to global warming not only over high latitudes but also in the eastern United States. Last, the Arctic sea ice loss displaces the Pacific intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) equatorward and induces a “mini-global warming” in the tropical upper troposphere.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0134.s1.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dr. Lantao Sun, lantao.sun@noaa.gov

Abstract

The role of transient Arctic sea ice loss in the projected greenhouse gas–induced late-twentieth- to late-twenty-first-century climate change is investigated using the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory’s Coupled Model version 3. Two sets of simulations have been conducted, one with representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 radiative forcing and the second with RCP forcing but with Arctic sea ice nudged to its 1990 state. The difference between the two five-member sets indicates the influence of decreasing Arctic sea ice on the climate system. Within the Arctic, sea ice loss is found to be a primary driver of the surface temperature and precipitation changes. Arctic sea ice depletion also plays a dominant role in projected Atlantic meridional overturning circulation weakening and changes in North Atlantic extratropical sea surface temperature and salinity, especially in the first half century. The effect of present-day Arctic sea ice loss on Northern Hemisphere (NH) extratropical atmospheric circulation is small relative to internal variability and the future sea ice loss effect on atmospheric circulation is distinct from the projected anthropogenic change. Arctic sea ice loss warms NH extratropical continents and is an important contributor to global warming not only over high latitudes but also in the eastern United States. Last, the Arctic sea ice loss displaces the Pacific intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) equatorward and induces a “mini-global warming” in the tropical upper troposphere.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0134.s1.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dr. Lantao Sun, lantao.sun@noaa.gov

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