Sea Ice-Albedo Climate Feedback Mechanism

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  • 1 Program in Atmospheric Sciences, Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
  • 2 Bureau of Meteorology Research Center, Melbourne, Australia
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Abstract

The sea ice-albedo feedback mechanism over the Arctic Ocean multiyear sea ice is investigated by conducting a series of experiments using several one-dimensional models of the coupled sea ice-atmosphere system. In its simplest form, ice-albedo feedback is thought to be associated with a decrease in the areal cover of snow and ice and a corresponding increase in the surface temperature, further decreasing the areal cover of snow and ice. It is shown that the sea ice-albedo feedback can operate even in multiyear pack ice, without the disappearance of this ice, associated with internal processes occurring within the multiyear ice pack (e.g., duration of the snow cover, ice thickness, ice distribution, lead fraction, and melt pond characteristics).

The strength of the ice-albedo feedback mechanism is compared for several different thermodynamic sea ice models: a new model that includes ice thickness distribution, the Ebert and Curry model, the Maykut and Untersteiner model, and the Semtner level-3 and level-0 models. The climate forcing is chosen to be a perturbation of the surface heat flux, and cloud and water vapor feedbacks are inoperative so that the effects of the sea ice-albedo feedback mechanism can be isolated. The inclusion of melt ponds significantly strengthens the ice-albedo feedback, while the ice thickness distribution decreases the strength of the modeled sea ice-albedo feedback. It is emphasized that accurately modeling present-day sea ice thickness is not adequate for a sea ice parameterization; the correct physical processes must be included so that the sea ice parameterization yields correct sensitivities to external forcing.

Abstract

The sea ice-albedo feedback mechanism over the Arctic Ocean multiyear sea ice is investigated by conducting a series of experiments using several one-dimensional models of the coupled sea ice-atmosphere system. In its simplest form, ice-albedo feedback is thought to be associated with a decrease in the areal cover of snow and ice and a corresponding increase in the surface temperature, further decreasing the areal cover of snow and ice. It is shown that the sea ice-albedo feedback can operate even in multiyear pack ice, without the disappearance of this ice, associated with internal processes occurring within the multiyear ice pack (e.g., duration of the snow cover, ice thickness, ice distribution, lead fraction, and melt pond characteristics).

The strength of the ice-albedo feedback mechanism is compared for several different thermodynamic sea ice models: a new model that includes ice thickness distribution, the Ebert and Curry model, the Maykut and Untersteiner model, and the Semtner level-3 and level-0 models. The climate forcing is chosen to be a perturbation of the surface heat flux, and cloud and water vapor feedbacks are inoperative so that the effects of the sea ice-albedo feedback mechanism can be isolated. The inclusion of melt ponds significantly strengthens the ice-albedo feedback, while the ice thickness distribution decreases the strength of the modeled sea ice-albedo feedback. It is emphasized that accurately modeling present-day sea ice thickness is not adequate for a sea ice parameterization; the correct physical processes must be included so that the sea ice parameterization yields correct sensitivities to external forcing.

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