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Marc d’Orgeville and W. Richard Peltier

Abstract

In the low-resolution version of the Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3), the modeled North Pacific decadal variability is demonstrated to be independent of the epoch for which a statistically steady control simulation is constructed, either preindustrial or modern; however, it is demonstrated to be significantly affected by the different global warming scenarios investigated.

In the control simulations, the North Pacific basin is shown to be dominated by sea surface temperature (SST) variability with a time scale of approximately 20 yr. This mode of variability is in close accord with the observed characteristics of the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO). A detailed analysis of the statistical equilibrium runs is performed based on other model variables as well [sea surface salinity (SSS), barotropic circulation, freshwater and heat fluxes, wind stress curl, sea ice, and snow coverage]. These analyses confirm that the underlying mechanism of the PDO involves a basin-scale mode of ocean adjustment to changes of the atmospheric forcing associated with the Aleutian low pressure system. However, they also suggest that the observed sign reversal of the PDO arises from a feedback in the northern part of the basin. In this novel hypothesis, the advection to the Bering Sea of “spice” anomalies formed in the central and western Pacific sets up a typical 10-yr time scale for the triggering of the PDO reversal.

In all of the global warming simulations described in this paper, the signal represented by the detrended SST variability in the North Pacific displays significant power at multidecadal frequencies. In these simulations, the natural North Pacific decadal variability, as characterized in the control simulations (the PDO), remains the leading mode of variability only for moderate forcing. If the warming is too strong, then the typical 20-yr time scale of the canonical PDO can no longer be detected, except in terms of SSS variability and only prior to a significant change that occurs in the Bering Strait Throughflow.

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Marc d’Orgeville and W. Richard Peltier

Abstract

The nature of the multidecadal variability in the North Atlantic basin is investigated through detailed analysis of multicentury integrations performed using the low-resolution version of the Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3), a modern atmosphere–ocean coupled general circulation model. Specifically, the results of control simulations under both preindustrial and present-day perpetual seasonal cycle conditions are compared to each other and also to the results of five simulations with increasing CO2 concentration scenarios.

In the absence of greenhouse gas–induced warming, the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) variability is shown to be dependent on the details of the simulation. In the present-day control simulation, the MOC is characterized by a broad spectrum of low frequencies, whereas, in preindustrial control simulations, MOC variability is characterized either by a well-defined periodicity of 60 yr or by a broad spectrum of low frequencies. In all the control simulations, the MOC appears to respond with a delay of 10 yr to synchronous temperature and salinity anomalies in the deep water formation sites located in the subpolar gyre, but salinity dominates the density anomalies. The explanation of the modeled MOC periodicity is therefore sought in the creation of these density anomalies. The influence of increased sea ice coverage under cold/preindustrial conditions is shown to modify the salinity variability, but it is not a sufficient condition for the support of the MOC periodicity. Instead, its source appears to be a modified subpolar gyre circulation resulting from interaction with the bottom bathymetry, which is able to sustain strong coupling between the horizontal and overturning circulations.

Based on the global warming analyses, for the simulations initialized from the cold/preindustrial statistical equilibrium run, the North Atlantic variability continues to be dominated by strong coupling between the horizontal and overturning circulations if the imposed forcing is weak. More generally, the delayed response of the MOC to surface density anomalies in the deep water formation regions is preserved under weak forcing.

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Alex S. Gardner, Martin J. Sharp, Roy M. Koerner, Claude Labine, Sarah Boon, Shawn J. Marshall, David O. Burgess, and David Lewis

Abstract

Distributed glacier surface melt models are often forced using air temperature fields that are either downscaled from climate models or reanalysis, or extrapolated from station measurements. Typically, the downscaling and/or extrapolation are performed using a constant temperature lapse rate, which is often taken to be the free-air moist adiabatic lapse rate (MALR: 6°–7°C km−1). To explore the validity of this approach, the authors examined altitudinal gradients in daily mean air temperature along six transects across four glaciers in the Canadian high Arctic. The dataset includes over 58 000 daily averaged temperature measurements from 69 sensors covering the period 1988–2007. Temperature lapse rates near glacier surfaces vary on both daily and seasonal time scales, are consistently lower than the MALR (ablation season mean: 4.9°C km−1), and exhibit strong regional covariance. A significant fraction of the daily variability in lapse rates is associated with changes in free-atmospheric temperatures (higher temperatures = lower lapse rates). The temperature fields generated by downscaling point location summit elevation temperatures to the glacier surface using temporally variable lapse rates are a substantial improvement over those generated using the static MALR. These findings suggest that lower near-surface temperature lapse rates can be expected under a warming climate and that the air temperature near the glacier surface is less sensitive to changes in the temperature of the free atmosphere than is generally assumed.

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Guido Vettoretti, Marc d’Orgeville, William R. Peltier, and Marek Stastna

Abstract

It is generally accepted that the ocean thermohaline circulation plays a key role in polar climate stability and rapid climate change. Recently reported analyses of the impact of anomalous freshwater outflows from the North American continent onto either the North Atlantic or Arctic Oceans demonstrate that, in either case, a clear reduction in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, accompanied by an increase in sea ice extent, is predicted. The results also reconcile proxy-inferred Younger Dryas Greenland temperature variations. The aim of the present work is to provide a detailed investigation of the pathways along which the signal associated with overturning circulation anomalies propagates into both the midlatitudes and the tropics and the effect such teleconnections have on the tropical ocean–atmosphere system. The authors consider both the impact of substantial slowing of the overturning circulation due to freshwater forcing of the North Atlantic as well as its recovery after the anomalous forcing has ceased. The changes in tropical climate variability are shown to manifest themselves in shifts of both the typical time scale and intensity of ENSO events in the model. Evidence is presented for mechanisms that involve both atmospheric and oceanic pathways through which such Northern Hemisphere high-latitude events are communicated into both the midlatitudes and the tropics and thereafter transformed into changes in the nature of tropical variability.

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Stephen D. Griffiths and W. Richard Peltier

Abstract

Diurnal and semidiurnal ocean tides are calculated for both the present day and the Last Glacial Maximum. A numerical model with complete global coverage and enhanced resolution at high latitudes is used including the physics of self-attraction and loading and internal tide drag. Modeled present-day tidal amplitudes are overestimated at the standard resolution, but the error decreases as the resolution increases. It is argued that such results, which can be improved in the future using higher-resolution simulations, are preferable to those obtained by artificial enhancement of dissipative processes. For simulations at the Last Glacial Maximum a new version of the ICE-5G topographic reconstruction is used along with density stratification determined from coupled atmosphere–ocean climate simulations. The model predicts a significant amplification of tides around the Arctic and Antarctic coastlines, and these changes are interpreted in terms of Kelvin wave dynamics with the aid of an exact analytical solution for propagation around a polar continent or basin. These polar tides are shown to be highly sensitive to the assumed location of the grounding lines of coastal ice sheets, and the way in which this may contribute to an interaction between tides and climate change is discussed. Globally, the picture is one of energized semidiurnal tides at the Last Glacial Maximum, with an increase in tidal dissipation from present-day values, the dominant energy sink being the conversion to internal waves.

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M. Eby, K. Zickfeld, A. Montenegro, D. Archer, K. J. Meissner, and A. J. Weaver

Abstract

Multimillennial simulations with a fully coupled climate–carbon cycle model are examined to assess the persistence of the climatic impacts of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. It is found that the time required to absorb anthropogenic CO2 strongly depends on the total amount of emissions; for emissions similar to known fossil fuel reserves, the time to absorb 50% of the CO2 is more than 2000 yr. The long-term climate response appears to be independent of the rate at which CO2 is emitted over the next few centuries. Results further suggest that the lifetime of the surface air temperature anomaly might be as much as 60% longer than the lifetime of anthropogenic CO2 and that two-thirds of the maximum temperature anomaly will persist for longer than 10 000 yr. This suggests that the consequences of anthropogenic CO2 emissions will persist for many millennia.

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Garry K. C. Clarke, Andrew B. G. Bush, and John W. M. Bush

Abstract

A cold event at around 8200 calendar years BP and the release, at around that time, of a huge freshwater outburst from ice-dammed glacial Lake Agassiz have lent support to the idea that the flood triggered the cold event. Some suggest that the freshwater addition caused a weakening of the North Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (MOC) thereby reducing the ocean transport of heat to high northern latitudes. Although several modeling efforts lend strength to this claim, the paleoceanographic record is equivocal. The authors’ aim is to use a coupled ocean–atmosphere model to examine the possibility that the two events are causally linked but that MOC reduction was not the main agent of change. It is found that the outburst flood and associated redirection of postflood meltwater drainage to the Labrador Sea, via Hudson Strait, can freshen the North Atlantic, leading to reduced salinity and sea surface temperature, and thus to increased sea ice production at high latitudes. The results point to the possibility that the preflood outflow to the St. Lawrence was extremely turbid and sufficiently dense to become hyperpycnal, whereas the postflood outflow through Hudson Strait had a lower load of suspended sediment and was buoyant.

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Garry K. C. Clarke, Etienne Berthier, Christian G. Schoof, and Alexander H. Jarosch

Abstract

To predict the rate and consequences of shrinkage of the earth’s mountain glaciers and ice caps, it is necessary to have improved regional-scale models of mountain glaciation and better knowledge of the subglacial topography upon which these models must operate. The problem of estimating glacier ice thickness is addressed by developing an artificial neural network (ANN) approach that uses calculations performed on a digital elevation model (DEM) and on a mask of the present-day ice cover. Because suitable data from real glaciers are lacking, the ANN is trained by substituting the known topography of ice-denuded regions adjacent to the ice-covered regions of interest, and this known topography is hidden by imagining it to be ice-covered. For this training it is assumed that the topography is flooded to various levels by horizontal lake-like glaciers. The validity of this assumption and the estimation skill of the trained ANN is tested by predicting ice thickness for four 50 km × 50 km regions that are currently ice free but that have been partially glaciated using a numerical ice dynamics model. In this manner, predictions of ice thickness based on the neural network can be compared to the modeled ice thickness and the performance of the neural network can be evaluated and improved. From the results, thus far, it is found that ANN depth estimates can yield plausible subglacial topography with a representative rms elevation error of ±70 m and remarkably good estimates of ice volume.

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Shawn J. Marshall and Martin J. Sharp

Abstract

Near-surface temperature variability and net annual mass balance were monitored from May 2001 to April 2003 in a network of 25 sites on the Prince of Wales Ice Field, Ellesmere Island, Canada. The observational array spanned an area of 180 km by 120 km and ranged from 130 to 2010 m in altitude. Hourly, daily, and monthly average temperatures from the spatial array provide a record of mesoscale temperature variability on the ice field. The authors examine seasonal variations in the variance of monthly and daily temperature: free parameters in positive-degree-day melt models that are presently in use for modeling of glacier mass balance. An analysis of parameter space reveals that daily and seasonal temperature variability are suppressed in summer months (over a melting snow–ice surface), an effect that is important to include in melt modeling. In addition, average annual vertical gradients in near-surface temperature were −3.7°C km−1 in the 2-yr record, steepening to −4.4°C km−1 in the summer months. These gradients are less than the adiabatic lapse rates that are commonly adopted for extrapolation of sea level temperature to higher altitudes, with significant implications for modeling of snow and ice melt. Mass balance simulations for the ice field illustrate the sensitivity of melt models to different lapse rate and temperature parameterizations.

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A. E. Viau and K. Gajewski

Abstract

Regional paleoclimate reconstructions for northern Canada quantify Holocene climate variability on orbital and millennial time scales and provide a context to better understand the current global warming. The reconstructions are based on available pollen diagrams from the boreal and low Arctic zones of Canada and use the modern analog technique (MAT). Four regional reconstructions document the space–time evolution of the climate during the Holocene. Highest summer and winter temperatures anomalies are found in central Canada during the early Holocene. Eastern Canada was relatively cool in the early Holocene, whereas central Canada was warmest at that time. Labrador was relatively dry in the early to mid-Holocene during which time western Canada was relatively moist. Millennial-scale temperature variations, especially the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age are seen across the continent, with some suggestion of time-transgressive changes from west to east. At the millennial scale, precipitation anomalies are of opposite signs in eastern and western Canada. The results herein indicate that modern increases in temperatures in northern Canada far exceed natural millennial-scale climate variability.

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