Study explores atmospheric impact of declining Arctic sea ice

May 28, 2013

There is growing recognition that reductions in Arctic sea ice levels will influence patterns of atmospheric circulation both within and beyond the Arctic. New research in the International Journal of Climatology explores the impact of 2007 ice conditions, the second lowest Arctic sea ice extent in the satellite era, on atmospheric circulation and surface temperatures.

Two 30-year simulations, one using the sea ice levels of 2007 and another using sea ice levels at the end of the 20th century, were used to access the impact of ice free seas. The results showed a significant response to the anomalous open water of 2007.

The results confirm that the atmospheric response to declining sea ice could have implications far beyond the Arctic such as a decrease in the pole to equator temperature gradient, given the increased temperatures associated with the increase in open water, leading to a weaker jet stream and less storminess in the mid-latitudes.

"In the context of decreasing extent, our experiments investigating the impacts of anomalous open water on the atmosphere showed increased heat transfer from the ocean to the atmosphere and warmer temperatures in areas of reduced sea ice. Comparing the model simulated circulation to the observed circulation for the summer of 2007 (the year of focus for the model experiments), we found the simulated circulation to be quite different than what was observed for spring and summer while more similar for autumn and fall," said Elizabeth Cassano from the University of Colorado.

"This suggests the sea ice conditions in the months preceding and during the summer of 2007 were not responsible for contributing to a which favored the large observed sea ice loss in that year. The circulation during autumn and winter which was more similar between the and the observed circulation suggests that the reduced sea ice in 2007 was in part responsible for the observed during autumn and winter of that year."

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More information: Elizabeth N. Cassano, John J. Cassano, Matthew E. Higgins and Mark C. Serrez, Atmospheric impacts of an Arctic sea ice minimum as seen in the Community Atmosphere Model, International Journal of Climatology, Wiley, DOI: 10.1002/joc.3723

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runrig
5 / 5 (9) May 28, 2013
....a decrease in the pole to equator temperature gradient, given the increased temperatures associated with the increase in open water, leading to a weaker jet stream and less storminess in the mid-latitudes.



Not rocket science - just basic meteorology. It is entirely intuitive that more open Arctic water at the onset of winter will result in a changed atmospheric circulation, favouring winter -ve AO conditions and cold plunges to more southern climes. Europe most notably.

Autumn and early winter is the time the Arctic vortex forms as the polar region cools rapidly. More available WV above arctic seas due the open water will allow for greater snowfall over the northern Eurasian continent. The Siberian High cell forms more quickly in response and takes a more intransigent hold over the NH circulation at the expense of the polar vortex ( Low ). Result, combined with a weaker, wobblier jet is as above. Like the ENSO oscillation open arctic water is bound to have large effect
discouragedinMI
1.1 / 5 (14) May 30, 2013
This study is nearly useless. "Two 30-year simulations" ... stop right there. Two simulations? One comparison and we are ready to draw a very important conclusion? What has happened to science in the last 20 years. We ran 3 simulations on my dissertation experiment (much less complicated than climatology) and we still took the data and placed low value on the simulations. The climate simulations are still very lacking.
runrig
5 / 5 (4) May 30, 2013
This study is nearly useless. "Two 30-year simulations" ... stop right there. Two simulations? One comparison and we are ready to draw a very important conclusion? What has happened to science in the last 20 years. We ran 3 simulations on my dissertation experiment (much less complicated than climatology) and we still took the data and placed low value on the simulations. The climate simulations are still very lacking.


Given the exact same data, code, compiler, start files etc, then there will be bit-level reproducibility.
The study was run twice with the initial conditions changed only in the modelling of Arctic ice extent.
In that respect it is an ensemble forecast highlighting a divergence due ONLY the ice's impact on the climate system.
GCM's are not weather models and are run at a lower resolution - giving an overview of the climate generally. No other runs are required.
The study is sound and indeed observation confirms the findings.