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Title: Robust Polar Amplification in Ice-Free Climates Relies on Ocean Heat Transport and Cloud Radiative Effects
Abstract

A fundamental divide exists between previous studies that conclude that polar amplification does not occur without sea ice and studies that find that polar amplification is an inherent feature of the atmosphere independent of sea ice. We hypothesize that a representation of climatological ocean heat transport is key for simulating polar amplification in ice-free climates. To investigate this, we run a suite of targeted experiments in the slab ocean aquaplanet configuration of CESM2-CAM6 with different profiles of prescribed ocean heat transport, which are invariant under CO2quadrupling. In simulations without climatological ocean heat transport, polar amplification does not occur. In contrast, in simulations with climatological ocean heat transport, robust polar amplification occurs in all seasons. What is causing this dependence of polar amplification on ocean heat transport? Energy-balance model theory is incapable of explaining our results and in fact would predict that introducing ocean heat transport leads to less polar amplification. We instead demonstrate that shortwave cloud radiative feedbacks can explain the divergent polar climate responses simulated by CESM2-CAM6. Targeted cloud locking experiments in the zero ocean heat transport simulations are able to reproduce the polar amplification of the climatological ocean heat transport simulations, solely by prescribing high-latitude cloud radiative feedbacks. We conclude that polar amplification in ice-free climates is underpinned by ocean–atmosphere coupling, through a less negative high latitude shortwave cloud radiative feedback that facilitates enhanced polar warming. In addition to reconciling previous disparities, these results have important implications for interpreting past equable climates and climate projections under high-emissions scenarios.

Significance Statement

Polar amplification is a robust feature of climate change in the modern-day climate. However, previous climate modeling studies fundamentally do not agree on whether polar amplification occurs in ice-free climates. In this study, we find in a state-of-the-art climate model that, if ocean heat transport is neglected, the response to an increase in CO2is not polar amplified, whereas robust polar amplification occurs if ocean heat transport is included. Using targeted model experiments, we diagnose cloud radiative effects as the driver of this divergent behavior. We conclude that polar amplification is a robust feature of the atmosphere–ocean system. Our results have important implications for interpreting past warm climates and future projections under high-emissions scenarios.

 
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Award ID(s):
1753034 1828315
NSF-PAR ID:
10494160
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  
Publisher / Repository:
American Meteorological Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Climate
Volume:
37
Issue:
7
ISSN:
0894-8755
Format(s):
Medium: X Size: p. 2179-2197
Size(s):
["p. 2179-2197"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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