skip to main content

Title: Divergence in Climate Model Projections of Future Arctic Atlantification

The Arctic Ocean is strongly stratified by salinity in the uppermost layers. This stratification is a key attribute of the region as it acts as an effective barrier for the vertical exchanges of Atlantic Water heat, nutrients, and CO2between intermediate depths and the surface of the Eurasian and Amerasian basins (EB and AB, respectively). Observations show that from 1970 to 2017, the stratification in the AB has strengthened, whereas, in parts of the EB, the stratification has weakened. The strengthening in the AB is linked to freshening and deepening of the halocline. In the EB, the weakened stratification is associated with salinification and shoaling of the halocline (Atlantification). Simulations from a suite of CMIP6 models project that, under a strong greenhouse gas forcing scenario (ssp585), the overall surface freshening and warming continue in both basins, but there is a divergence in hydrographic trends in certain regions. Within the AB, there is agreement among the models that the upper layers will become more stratified. However, within the EB, models diverge regarding future stratification. This is due to different balances between trends at the surface and trends at depth, related to Fram Strait fluxes. The divergence affects projections of the future state of Arctic sea ice, as models with the strongest Atlantification project the strongest decline in sea ice volume in the EB. From these simulations, one could conclude that Atlantification will not spread eastward into the AB; however, models must be improved to simulate changes in a more intricately stratified EB correctly.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
American Meteorological Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Climate
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1727-1748
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract A 15-yr duration record of mooring observations from the eastern (>70°E) Eurasian Basin (EB) of the Arctic Ocean is used to show and quantify the recently increased oceanic heat flux from intermediate-depth (~150–900 m) warm Atlantic Water (AW) to the surface mixed layer and sea ice. The upward release of AW heat is regulated by the stability of the overlying halocline, which we show has weakened substantially in recent years. Shoaling of the AW has also contributed, with observations in winter 2017–18 showing AW at only 80 m depth, just below the wintertime surface mixed layer, the shallowest in our mooring records. The weakening of the halocline for several months at this time implies that AW heat was linked to winter convection associated with brine rejection during sea ice formation. This resulted in a substantial increase of upward oceanic heat flux during the winter season, from an average of 3–4 W m −2 in 2007–08 to >10 W m −2 in 2016–18. This seasonal AW heat loss in the eastern EB is equivalent to a more than a twofold reduction of winter ice growth. These changes imply a positive feedback as reduced sea ice cover permits increased mixing, augmenting the summer-dominated ice-albedo feedback. 
    more » « less
  2. Keynote points • Thermal expansion from a warming ocean and land ice melt are the main causes of the accelerating global rise in the mean sea level. • Global warming is also affecting many circulation systems. The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation has already weakened and will most likely continue to do so in the future. The impacts of ocean circulation changes include a regional rise in sea levels, changes in the nutrient distribution and carbon uptake of the ocean and feedbacks with the atmosphere, such as altering the distribution of precipitation. • More than 90 per cent of the heat from global warming is stored in the global ocean. Oceans have exhibited robust warming since the 1950s from the surface to a depth of 2,000 m. The proportion of ocean heat content has more than doubled since the 1990s compared with long-term trends. Ocean warming can be seen in most of the global ocean, with a few regions exhibiting long-term cooling. • The ocean shows a marked pattern of salinity changes in multidecadal observations, with surface and subsurface patterns providing clear evidence of a water cycle amplification over the ocean. That is manifested in enhanced salinities in the near-surface, high-salinity subtropical regions and freshening in the low-salinity regions such as the West Pacific Warm Pool and the poles. • An increase in atmospheric CO2 levels, and a subsequent increase in carbon in the oceans, has changed the chemistry of the oceans to include changes to pH and aragonite saturation. A more carbon-enriched marine environment, especially when coupled with other environmental stressors, has been demonstrated through field studies and experiments to have negative impacts on a wide range of organisms, in particular those that form calcium carbonate shells, and alter biodiversity and ecosystem structure. • Decades of oxygen observations allow for robust trend analyses. Long-term measurements have shown decreases in dissolved oxygen concentrations for most ocean regions and the expansion of oxygen-depleted zones. A temperature-driven solubility decrease is responsible for most near-surface oxygen loss, though oxygen decrease is not limited to the upper ocean and is present throughout the water column in many areas. • Total sea ice extent has been declining rapidly in the Arctic, but trends are insignificant in the Antarctic. In the Arctic, the summer trends are most striking in the Pacific sector of the Arctic Ocean, while, in the Antarctic, the summer trends show increases in the Weddell Sea and decreases in the West Antarctic sector of the Southern Ocean. Variations in sea ice extent result from changes in wind and ocean currents. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Salinity-driven density stratification of the upper Arctic Ocean isolates sea-ice cover and cold, nutrient-poor surface waters from underlying warmer, nutrient-rich waters. Recently, stratification has strengthened in the western Arctic but has weakened in the eastern Arctic; it is unknown if these trends will continue. Here we present foraminifera-bound nitrogen isotopes from Arctic Ocean sediments since 35,000 years ago to reconstruct past changes in nutrient sources and the degree of nutrient consumption in surface waters, the latter reflecting stratification. During the last ice age and early deglaciation, the Arctic was dominated by Atlantic-sourced nitrate and incomplete nitrate consumption, indicating weaker stratification. Starting at 11,000 years ago in the western Arctic, there is a clear isotopic signal of Pacific-sourced nitrate and complete nitrate consumption associated with the flooding of the Bering Strait. These changes reveal that the strong stratification of the western Arctic relies on low-salinity inflow through the Bering Strait. In the central Arctic, nitrate consumption was complete during the early Holocene, then declined after 5,000 years ago as summer insolation decreased. This sequence suggests that precipitation and riverine freshwater fluxes control the stratification of the central Arctic Ocean. Based on these findings, ongoing warming will cause strong stratification to expand into the central Arctic, slowing the nutrient supply to surface waters and thus limiting future phytoplankton productivity.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract Mechanisms behind the phenomenon of Arctic amplification are widely discussed. To contribute to this debate, the (AC) 3 project was established in 2016 ( ). It comprises modeling and data analysis efforts as well as observational elements. The project has assembled a wealth of ground-based, airborne, shipborne, and satellite data of physical, chemical, and meteorological properties of the Arctic atmosphere, cryosphere, and upper ocean that are available for the Arctic climate research community. Short-term changes and indications of long-term trends in Arctic climate parameters have been detected using existing and new data. For example, a distinct atmospheric moistening, an increase of regional storm activities, an amplified winter warming in the Svalbard and North Pole regions, and a decrease of sea ice thickness in the Fram Strait and of snow depth on sea ice have been identified. A positive trend of tropospheric bromine monoxide (BrO) column densities during polar spring was verified. Local marine/biogenic sources for cloud condensation nuclei and ice nucleating particles were found. Atmospheric–ocean and radiative transfer models were advanced by applying new parameterizations of surface albedo, cloud droplet activation, convective plumes and related processes over leads, and turbulent transfer coefficients for stable surface layers. Four modes of the surface radiative energy budget were explored and reproduced by simulations. To advance the future synthesis of the results, cross-cutting activities are being developed aiming to answer key questions in four focus areas: lapse rate feedback, surface processes, Arctic mixed-phase clouds, and airmass transport and transformation. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Solute exclusion during sea ice formation is a potentially important contributor to the Arctic Ocean inorganic carbon cycle that could increase as ice cover diminishes. When ice forms, solutes are excluded from the ice matrix, creating a brine that includes dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total alkalinity (AT). The brine sinks, potentially exporting DIC andATto deeper water. This phenomenon has rarely been observed, however. In this manuscript, we examine a ~1 yearpCO2mooring time series where a ~35‐μatm increase inpCO2was observed in the mixed layer during the ice formation period, corresponding to a simultaneous increase in salinity from 27.2 to 28.5. Using salinity and ice based mass balances, we show that most of the observed increases can be attributed to solute exclusion during ice formation. The resultingpCO2is sensitive to the ratio ofATand DIC retained in the ice and the mixed layer depth, which controls dilution of the ice‐derivedATand DIC. In the Canada Basin, of the ~92 μmol/kg increase in DIC, 17 μmol/kg was taken up by biological production and the remainder was trapped between the halocline and the summer stratified surface layer. Although not observed before the mooring was recovered, this inorganic carbon was likely later entrained with surface water, increasing thepCO2at the surface. It is probable that inorganic carbon exclusion during ice formation will have an increasingly important influence on DIC andpCO2in the surface of the Arctic Ocean as seasonal ice production and wind‐driven mixing increase with diminishing ice cover.

    more » « less