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Ariaan Purich, Matthew H. England, Wenju Cai, Yoshimitsu Chikamoto, Axel Timmermann, John C. Fyfe, Leela Frankcombe, Gerald A. Meehl, and Julie M. Arblaster


A strengthening of the Amundsen Sea low from 1979 to 2013 has been shown to largely explain the observed increase in Antarctic sea ice concentration in the eastern Ross Sea and decrease in the Bellingshausen Sea. Here it is shown that while these changes are not generally seen in freely running coupled climate model simulations, they are reproduced in simulations of two independent coupled climate models: one constrained by observed sea surface temperature anomalies in the tropical Pacific and the other by observed surface wind stress in the tropics. This analysis confirms previous results and strengthens the conclusion that the phase change in the interdecadal Pacific oscillation from positive to negative over 1979–2013 contributed to the observed strengthening of the Amundsen Sea low and the associated pattern of Antarctic sea ice change during this period. New support for this conclusion is provided by simulated trends in spatial patterns of sea ice concentrations that are similar to those observed. These results highlight the importance of accounting for teleconnections from low to high latitudes in both model simulations and observations of Antarctic sea ice variability and change.

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Benjamin D. Santer, Stephen Po-Chedley, Carl Mears, John C. Fyfe, Nathan Gillett, Qiang Fu, Jeffrey F. Painter, Susan Solomon, Andrea K. Steiner, Frank J. Wentz, Mark D. Zelinka, and Cheng-Zhi Zou


We compare atmospheric temperature changes in satellite data and in model ensembles performed under phases 5 and 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5 and CMIP6). In the lower stratosphere, multi-decadal stratospheric cooling during the period of strong ozone depletion is smaller in newer CMIP6 simulations than in CMIP5 or satellite data. In the troposphere, however, despite forcing and climate sensitivity differences between the two CMIP ensembles, their ensemble-average global warming over 1979-2019 is very similar. We also examine four properties of tropical behavior governed by basic physical processes. The first three are ratios between trends inwater vapor (WV) and trends in sea surface temperature (SST), lower tropospheric temperature (TLT), and mid- to upper tropospheric temperature (TMT). The fourth property is the ratio between TMT and SST trends. All four ratios are tightly constrained in CMIP simulations but diverge markedly in observations. Model trend ratios between WV and temperature are closest to observed ratios when the latter are calculated with data sets exhibiting larger tropical warming of the ocean surface and troposphere. For the TMT/SST ratio, model-data consistency depends on the combination of observations used to estimate TMT and SST trends. If model expectations of these four covariance relationships are realistic, our findings reflect either a systematic low bias in satellite tropospheric temperature trends or an overestimate of the observed atmospheric moistening signal. It is currently difficult to determine which interpretation is more credible. Nevertheless, our analysis reveals anomalous covariance behavior in several observational data sets and illustrates the diagnostic power of simultaneously considering multiple complementary variables.

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