Arctic amplification has been attributed predominantly to a positive lapse rate feedback in winter, when boundary layer temperature inversions focus warming near the surface. Predicting high-latitude climate change effectively thus requires identifying the local and remote physical processes that set the Arctic’s vertical warming structure. In this study, we analyze output from the CESM Large Ensemble’s twenty-first-century climate change projection to diagnose the relative influence of two Arctic heating sources, local sea ice loss and remote changes in atmospheric heat transport. Causal effects are quantified with a statistical inference method, allowing us to assess the energetic pathways mediating the Arctic temperature response and the role of internal variability across the ensemble. We find that a step-increase in latent heat flux convergence causes Arctic lower-tropospheric warming in all seasons, while additionally reducing net longwave cooling at the surface. However, these effects only lead to small and short-lived changes in boundary layer inversion strength. By contrast, a step-decrease in sea ice extent in the melt season causes, in fall and winter, surface-amplified warming and weakened boundary layer temperature inversions. Sea ice loss also enhances surface turbulent heat fluxes and cloud-driven condensational heating, which mediate the atmospheric temperature response. While the aggregatemore »
The enhanced warming of the Arctic, relative to other parts of the Earth, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification, is one of the most striking features of climate change, and has important climatic impacts for the entire Northern Hemisphere. Several mechanisms are believed to be responsible for Arctic amplification; however, a quantitative understanding of their relative importance is still missing. Here, using ensembles of model integrations, we quantify the contribution of ocean coupling, both its thermodynamic and dynamic components, to Arctic amplification over the 20th and 21st centuries. We show that ocean coupling accounts for ~80% of the amplification by 2100. In particular, we show that thermodynamic coupling is responsible for future amplification and sea-ice loss as it overcomes the effect of dynamic coupling which reduces the amplification and sea-ice loss by ~35%. Our results demonstrate the utility of targeted numerical experiments to quantify the role of specific mechanisms in Arctic amplification, for better constraining climate projections.
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- npj Climate and Atmospheric Science
- Nature Publishing Group
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- National Science Foundation
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