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  1. Abstract Internal variability is the dominant cause of projection uncertainty of Arctic sea ice in the short and medium term. However, it is difficult to determine the realism of simulated internal variability in climate models, as observations only provide one possible realization while climate models can provide numerous different realizations. To enable a robust assessment of simulated internal variability of Arctic sea ice, we use a resampling technique to build synthetic ensembles for both observations and climate models, focusing on interannual variability, which is the dominant time scale of Arctic sea ice internal variability. We assess the realism of the interannual variability of Arctic sea ice cover as simulated by six models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) that provide large ensembles compared to four observational datasets. We augment the standard definition of model and observational consistency by representing the full distribution of resamplings, analogous to the distribution of variability that could have randomly occurred. We find that modeled interannual variability typically lies within observational uncertainty. The three models with the smallest mean state biases are the only ones consistent in the pan-Arctic for all months, but no model is consistent for all regions and seasons. Hence, choosing the right model for a given task as well as using internal variability as an additional metric to assess sea ice simulations is important. The fact that CMIP5 large ensembles broadly simulate interannual variability consistent within observational uncertainty gives confidence in the internal projection uncertainty for Arctic sea ice based on these models. Significance Statement The purpose of this study is to evaluate the historical simulated internal variability of Arctic sea ice in climate models. Determining model realism is important to have confidence in the projected sea ice evolution from these models, but so far only mean state and trends are commonly assessed metrics. Here we assess internal variability with a focus on the interannual variability, which is the dominant time scale for internal variability. We find that, in general, models agree well with observations, but as no model is within observational uncertainty for all months and locations, choosing the right model for a given task is crucial. Further refinement of internal variability realism assessments will require reduced observational uncertainty. 
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  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2024
  3. Abstract. Seasonal transitions in Arctic sea ice, such as the melt onset, have been found to be useful metrics for evaluating sea ice in climate models against observations. However, comparisons of melt onset dates between climate models and satellite observations are indirect. Satellite data products of melt onset rely on observed brightness temperatures, while climate models do not currently simulate brightness temperatures, and must therefore define melt onset with other modeled variables. Here we adapt a passive microwave sea ice satellite simulator, the Arctic Ocean Observation Operator (ARC3O), to produce simulated brightness temperatures that can be used to diagnose the timing of the earliest snowmelt in climate models, as we show here using Community Earth System Model version 2 (CESM2) ocean-ice hindcasts. By producing simulated brightness temperatures and earliest snowmelt estimation dates using CESM2 and ARC3O, we facilitate new and previously impossible comparisons between the model and satellite observations by removing the uncertainty that arises due to definition differences. Direct comparisons between the model and satellite data allow us to identify an early bias across large areas of the Arctic at the beginning of the CESM2 ocean-ice hindcast melt season, as well as improve our understanding of the physical processes underlying seasonal changes in brightness temperatures. In particular, the ARC3O allows us to show that satellite algorithm-based melt onset dates likely occur after significant snowmelt has already taken place. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract The shrinking of Arctic-wide September sea ice extent is often cited as an indicator of modern climate change; however, the timing of seasonal sea ice retreat/advance and the length of the open-water period are often more relevant to stakeholders working at regional and local scales. Here we highlight changes in regional open-water periods at multiple warming thresholds. We show that, in the latest generation of models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6), the open-water period lengthens by 63 days on average with 2 °C of global warming above the 1850-1900 average, and by over 90 days in several Arctic seas. Nearly the entire Arctic, including the Transpolar Sea Route, has at least 3 months of open water per year with 3.5 °C warming, and at least 6 months with 5 °C warming. Model bias compared to satellite data suggests that even such dramatic projections may be conservative. 
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  5. The sensitivity of sea ice to fire emissions highlights climate model uncertainty related to the accuracy of prescribed forcings. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
    Abstract The timing of melt onset in the Arctic plays a key role in the evolution of sea ice throughout Spring, Summer and Autumn. A major catalyst of early melt onset is increased downwelling longwave radiation, associated with increased levels of moisture in the atmosphere. Determining the atmospheric moisture pathways that are tied to increased downwelling longwave radiation and melt onset is therefore of keen interest. We employed Self Organizing Maps (SOM) on the daily sea level pressure for the period 1979–2018 over the Arctic during the melt season (April–July) and identified distinct circulation patterns. Melt onset dates were mapped on to these SOM patterns. The dominant moisture transport to much of the Arctic is enabled by a broad low pressure region stretching over Siberia and a high pressure over northern North America and Greenland. This configuration, which is reminiscent of the North American-Eurasian Arctic dipole pattern, funnels moisture from lower latitudes and through the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Other leading patterns are variations of this which transport moisture from North America and the Atlantic to the Central Arctic and Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Our analysis further indicates that most of the early and late melt onset timings in the Arctic are strongly related to the strong and weak emergence of these preferred circulation patterns, respectively. 
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  7. Abstract. Arctic sea ice experiences a dramatic annual cycle, and seasonal ice loss and growth can be characterized by various metrics: melt onset, breakup, opening, freeze onset, freeze-up, and closing. By evaluating a range of seasonal sea ice metrics, CMIP6 sea ice simulations can be evaluated in more detail than by using traditional metrics alone, such as sea ice area. We show that models capture the observed asymmetry in seasonal sea ice transitions, with spring ice loss taking about 1–2 months longer than fall ice growth. The largest impacts of internal variability are seen in the inflow regions for melt and freeze onset dates, but all metrics show pan-Arctic model spreads exceeding the internal variability range, indicating the contribution of model differences. Through climate model evaluation in the context of both observations and internal variability, we show that biases in seasonal transition dates can compensate for other unrealistic aspects of simulated sea ice. In some models, this leads to September sea ice areas in agreement with observations for the wrong reasons. 
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