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Sensitivity of the Arctic Climate to Leads in a Coupled Atmosphere-Mixed Layer Ocean Model

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  • 1 Center for Climatic Research, Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin
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Abstract

The thermodynamic sea ice code in a coupled atmosphere-mixed layer ocean GCM has been altered to allow the presence of open water within an ice pack (leads) and a prescribed turbulent oceanic heat flux at the ice bottom. Two experiments with the GCM are then performed: one with leads included and one without. A comparison between the two model runs is presented, in addition to a comparison between observations and the simulation with leads. Selected sea ice and atmospheric variables in the high-latitude Northern Hemisphere are analyzed to assess the sensitivity of these climatic components to the presence of leads and to identify feedback mechanisms that are introduced by leads.

The inclusion of leads causes Northern Hemispheric sea ice concentration to decrease in every season, with year-round statistically significant reductions at the highest latitude band (81°N). Using the improved sea ice code, the model's simulation of sea ice concentration in the central Arctic is consistent with observations in every season. Simulated summertime sea ice concentration at 81°N averages 93.8%, which agrees well with observations. There is a pronounced longitudinal variation to the lead fraction in summer, with the smallest values (0.01) neat the Canadian Archipelago and the largest (0.25) north of the East Siberian Sea. Consistent with observations, the model produces wintertime turbulent sensible heat fluxes over leads that are one to two orders of magnitude larger than over adjacent sea ice and of the opposite sign. Annual solar radiation absorption by leads in the central Arctic is 1.8 times as large as over adjacent sea ice, resulting in a summertime shortwave energy gain of over 2.5 W m−2 at 8 1°N compared to the model run without leads.

The inclusion of leads causes thicker sea ice in every season, because the very rapid ice growth rate in the leads is translated into enhanced accretion at the bottom of adjacent sea ice once a prescribed minimum lead fraction is reached. As a result, the weaker conductive heat flux through the thicker ice causes the surface temperature to decrease in winter across the entire Arctic basin. In the lower troposphere, however, this effect is offset by vigorous sensible heat transport through the leads, resulting in warmer temperatures up to 700 mb in winter and spring.

Abstract

The thermodynamic sea ice code in a coupled atmosphere-mixed layer ocean GCM has been altered to allow the presence of open water within an ice pack (leads) and a prescribed turbulent oceanic heat flux at the ice bottom. Two experiments with the GCM are then performed: one with leads included and one without. A comparison between the two model runs is presented, in addition to a comparison between observations and the simulation with leads. Selected sea ice and atmospheric variables in the high-latitude Northern Hemisphere are analyzed to assess the sensitivity of these climatic components to the presence of leads and to identify feedback mechanisms that are introduced by leads.

The inclusion of leads causes Northern Hemispheric sea ice concentration to decrease in every season, with year-round statistically significant reductions at the highest latitude band (81°N). Using the improved sea ice code, the model's simulation of sea ice concentration in the central Arctic is consistent with observations in every season. Simulated summertime sea ice concentration at 81°N averages 93.8%, which agrees well with observations. There is a pronounced longitudinal variation to the lead fraction in summer, with the smallest values (0.01) neat the Canadian Archipelago and the largest (0.25) north of the East Siberian Sea. Consistent with observations, the model produces wintertime turbulent sensible heat fluxes over leads that are one to two orders of magnitude larger than over adjacent sea ice and of the opposite sign. Annual solar radiation absorption by leads in the central Arctic is 1.8 times as large as over adjacent sea ice, resulting in a summertime shortwave energy gain of over 2.5 W m−2 at 8 1°N compared to the model run without leads.

The inclusion of leads causes thicker sea ice in every season, because the very rapid ice growth rate in the leads is translated into enhanced accretion at the bottom of adjacent sea ice once a prescribed minimum lead fraction is reached. As a result, the weaker conductive heat flux through the thicker ice causes the surface temperature to decrease in winter across the entire Arctic basin. In the lower troposphere, however, this effect is offset by vigorous sensible heat transport through the leads, resulting in warmer temperatures up to 700 mb in winter and spring.

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