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  1. Abstract

    Arctic surface warming under greenhouse gas forcing peaks in winter and reaches its minimum during summer in both observations and model projections. Many mechanisms have been proposed to explain this seasonal asymmetry, but disentangling these processes remains a challenge in the interpretation of general circulation model (GCM) experiments. To isolate these mechanisms, we use an idealized single-column sea ice model (SCM) that captures the seasonal pattern of Arctic warming. SCM experiments demonstrate that as sea ice melts and exposes open ocean, the accompanying increase in effective surface heat capacity alone can produce the observed pattern of peak warming in early winter (shifting to late winter under increased forcing) by slowing the seasonal heating rate, thus delaying the phase and reducing the amplitude of the seasonal cycle of surface temperature. To investigate warming seasonality in more complex models, we perform GCM experiments that individually isolate sea ice albedo and thermodynamic effects under CO2forcing. These also show a key role for the effective heat capacity of sea ice in promoting seasonal asymmetry through suppressing summer warming, in addition to precluding summer climatological inversions and a positive summer lapse-rate feedback. Peak winter warming in GCM experiments is further supported by a positive winter lapse-rate feedback, due to cold initial surface temperatures and strong surface-trapped warming that are enabled by the albedo effects of sea ice alone. While many factors contribute to the seasonal pattern of Arctic warming, these results highlight changes in effective surface heat capacity as a central mechanism supporting this seasonality.

    Significance Statement

    Under increasing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases, the strongest Arctic warming has occurred during early winter, but the reasons for this seasonal pattern of warming are not well understood. We use experiments in both simple and complex models with certain sea ice processes turned on and off to disentangle potential drivers of seasonality in Arctic warming. When sea ice melts and open ocean is exposed, surface temperatures are slower to reach the warm-season maximum and slower to cool back down below freezing in early winter. We find that this process alone can produce the observed pattern of maximum Arctic warming in early winter, highlighting a fundamental mechanism for the seasonality of Arctic warming.

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  2. Abstract

    Arctic icebergs, unconstrained sea ice floes, oil slicks, mangrove drifters, lost cargo containers, and other flotsam are known to move at 2%–4% of the prevailing wind velocity relative to the water, despite vast differences in the material properties, shapes, and sizes of objects. Here, we revisit the roles of density, aspect ratio, and skin and form drag in determining how an object is driven by winds and water currents. Idealized theoretical considerations show that although substantial differences exist for end members of the parameter space (either very thin or thick and very light or dense objects), most realistic cases of floating objects drift at approximately 3% of the free-stream wind velocity (measured outside an object’s surface boundary layer) relative to the water. This relationship, known as a long-standing rule of thumb for the drift of various types of floating objects, arises from the square root of the ratio of the density of air to that of water. We support our theoretical findings with flume experiments using floating objects with a range of densities and shapes.

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  3. Abstract

    State‐of‐the‐art climate models simulate a large spread in the projected decline of Arctic sea‐ice area (SIA) over the 21st century. Here we diagnose causes of this intermodel spread using a simple model that approximates future SIA based on present SIA and the sensitivity of SIA to Arctic temperatures. This model accounts for 70%–95% of the intermodel variance, with the majority of the spread arising from present‐day biases. The remaining spread arises from intermodel differences in Arctic warming, with some contribution from differences in the local sea‐ice sensitivity. Using observations to constrain the projections moves the probability of an ice‐free Arctic forward by 10–35 years when compared to unconstrained projections. Under a high‐emissions scenario, an ice‐free Arctic will likely (66% probability) occur between 2036 and 2056 in September and between 2050 and 2068 from July to October. Under a medium‐emissions scenario, the “likely” date occurs between 2040 and 2062 in September and much later in the 21st century from July to October.

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  4. Abstract

    Arctic Amplification is robustly seen in climate model simulations of future warming and in the paleoclimate record. Here, we focus on the past century of observations. We show that Arctic Amplification is only a recent phenomenon, and that for much of this period the Arctic cooled while the global‐mean temperature rose. To investigate why this occurred, we analyze large ensembles of comprehensive climate model simulations under different forcing scenarios. Our results suggest that the global warming from greenhouse gases was largely offset in the Arctic by regional cooling due to aerosols, with internal climate variability also contributing to Arctic cooling and global warming trends during this period. This suggests that the disruption of Arctic Amplification was due to a combination of factors unique to the 20th century, and that enhanced Arctic warming should be expected to be a consistent feature of climate change over the coming century.

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  5. Abstract

    The Antarctic sea ice area expanded significantly during 1979–2015. This is at odds with state-of-the-art climate models, which typically simulate a receding Antarctic sea ice cover in response to increasing greenhouse forcing. Here, we investigate the hypothesis that this discrepancy between models and observations occurs due to simulation biases in the sea ice drift velocity. As a control we use the Community Earth System Model (CESM) Large Ensemble, which has 40 realizations of past and future climate change that all undergo Antarctic sea ice retreat during recent decades. We modify CESM to replace the simulated sea ice velocity field with a satellite-derived estimate of the observed sea ice motion, and we simulate 3 realizations of recent climate change. We find that the Antarctic sea ice expands in all 3 of these realizations, with the simulated spatial structure of the expansion bearing resemblance to observations. The results suggest that the reason CESM has failed to capture the observed Antarctic sea ice expansion is due to simulation biases in the sea ice drift velocity, implying that an improved representation of sea ice motion is crucial for more accurate sea ice projections.

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  6. Abstract

    Over the coming century, both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice cover are projected to substantially decline. While many studies have documented the potential impacts of projected Arctic sea ice loss on the climate of the mid-latitudes and the tropics, little attention has been paid to the impacts of Antarctic sea ice loss. Here, using comprehensive climate model simulations, we show that the effects of end-of-the-century projected Antarctic sea ice loss extend much further than the tropics, and are able to produce considerable impacts on Arctic climate. Specifically, our model indicates that the Arctic surface will warm by 1 °C and Arctic sea ice extent will decline by 0.5 × 106km2in response to future Antarctic sea ice loss. Furthermore, with the aid of additional atmosphere-only simulations, we show that this pole-to-pole effect is mediated by the response of the tropical SSTs to Antarctic sea ice loss: these simulations reveal that Rossby waves originating in the tropical Pacific cause the Aleutian Low to deepen in the boreal winter, bringing warm air into the Arctic, and leading to sea ice loss in the Bering Sea. This pole-to-pole signal highlights the importance of understanding the climate impacts of the projected sea ice loss in the Antarctic, which could be as important as those associated with projected sea ice loss in the Arctic.

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  7. Abstract

    Polar amplification is a widely discussed phenomenon, and a range of mechanisms have been proposed to contribute to it, many of which involve atmospheric and surface processes. However, substantial questions remain regarding the role of ocean heat transport. Previous studies have found that ocean heat transport into the Arctic increases under global warming, but the reasons behind this remain unresolved. Here, we investigate changes in oceanic heat fluxes and associated impacts on polar amplification using an idealized ocean‐sea ice‐climate model of the Northern Hemisphere. We show that beneath the sea ice, vertical temperature gradients across the halocline increase as the ocean warms, since the surface mixed layer temperatures in ice‐covered regions are fixed near the freezing point. These enhanced vertical temperature gradients drive enhanced horizontal heat transport into the polar region and can contribute substantially to polar amplification.

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  8. Abstract The Antarctic Slope Current (ASC) plays a central role in redistributing water masses, sea ice, and tracer properties around the Antarctic margins, and in mediating cross-slope exchanges. While the ASC has historically been understood as a wind-driven circulation, recent studies have highlighted important momentum transfers due to mesoscale eddies and tidal flows. Furthermore, momentum input due to wind stress is transferred through sea ice to the ASC during most of the year, yet previous studies have typically considered the circulations of the ocean and sea ice independently. Thus, it remains unclear how the momentum input from the winds is mediated by sea ice, tidal forcing, and transient eddies in the ocean, and how the resulting momentum transfers serve to structure the ASC. In this study the dynamics of the coupled ocean–sea ice–ASC circulation are investigated using high-resolution process-oriented simulations and interpreted with the aid of a reduced-order model. In almost all simulations considered here, sea ice redistributes almost 100% of the wind stress away from the continental slope, resulting in approximately identical sea ice and ocean surface flows in the core of the ASC in a fully spun-up equilibrium state. This ice–ocean coupling results from suppression of vertical momentum transfer by mesoscale eddies over the continental slope, which allows the sea ice to accelerate the ocean surface flow until the speeds coincide. Tidal acceleration of the along-slope flow exaggerates this effect and may even result in ocean-to-ice momentum transfer. The implications of these findings for along- and across-slope transport of water masses and sea ice around Antarctica are discussed. 
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  9. Abstract The processes that contribute to the Arctic amplification of global surface warming are often described in the context of climate feedbacks. Previous studies have used a traditional feedback analysis framework to partition the regional surface warming into contributions from each feedback process. However, this partitioning can be complicated by interactions in the climate system. Here we focus instead on the physically intuitive approach of inactivating individual feedback processes during forced warming and evaluating the resulting change in the surface temperature field. We investigate this using a moist energy balance model with spatially varying feedbacks that are specified from comprehensive climate model results. We find that when warming is attributed to each feedback process by comparing how the climate would change if the process were not active, the water vapor feedback is the primary reason that the Arctic region warms more than the tropics, and the lapse rate feedback has a neutral effect on Arctic amplification by cooling the Arctic and the tropics by approximately equivalent amounts. These results are strikingly different from previous feedback analyses, which identified the lapse rate feedback as the largest contributor to Arctic amplification, with the water vapor feedback being the main opposing factor by warming the tropics more than the Arctic region. This highlights the importance of comparing different approaches of analyzing how feedbacks contribute to warming in order to build a better understanding of how feedbacks influence climate changes. 
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