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  1. Abstract

    The Arctic is undergoing a pronounced and rapid transformation in response to changing greenhouse gasses, including reduction in sea ice extent and thickness. There are also projected increases in near‐surface Arctic wind. This study addresses how the winds trends may be driven by changing surface roughness and/or stability in different Arctic regions and seasons, something that has not yet been thoroughly investigated. We analyze 50 experiments from the Community Earth System Model Version 2 (CESM2) Large Ensemble and five experiments using CESM2 with an artificially decreased sea ice roughness to match that of the open ocean. We find that with a smoother surface there are higher mean wind speeds and slower mean ice speeds in the autumn, winter, and spring. The artificially reduced surface roughness also strongly impacts the wind speed trends in autumn and winter, and we find that atmospheric stability changes are also important contributors to driving wind trends in both experiments. In contrast to the clear impacts on winds, the sea ice mean state and trends are statistically indistinguishable, suggesting that near‐surface winds are not major drivers of Arctic sea ice loss. Two major results of this work are: (a) the near‐surface wind trends are driven by changes in both surface roughness and near‐surface atmospheric stability that are themselves changing from sea ice loss, and (b) the sea ice mean state and trends are driven by the overall warming trend due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions and not significantly impacted by coupled feedbacks with the surface winds.

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  2. Recent climate change in the Arctic has been rapid and dramatic, leading to numerous physical and societal consequences. Many studies have investigated these ongoing and projected future changes across a range of climatic variables, but surprisingly little attention has been paid to wind speed, despite its known importance for sea ice motion, ocean wave heights, and coastal erosion. Here we analyzed future trends in Arctic surface wind speed and its relationship with sea ice cover among CMIP5 global climate models. There is a strong anticorrelation between climatological sea ice concentration and wind speed in the early 21st-century reference climate, and the vast majority of models simulate widespread future strengthening of surface winds over the Arctic Ocean (annual multi-model mean trend of up to 0.8 m s−1 or 13%). Nearly all models produce an inverse relationship between projected changes in sea ice cover and wind speed, such that grid cells with virtually total ice loss almost always experience stronger winds. Consistent with the largest regional ice losses during autumn and winter, the greatest increases in future wind speeds are expected during these two seasons, with localized strengthening up to 23%. As in other studies, stronger surface winds cannot be attributed to tighter pressure gradients but rather to some combination of weakened atmospheric stability and reduced surface roughness as the surface warms and melts. The intermodel spread of wind speed changes, as expressed by the two most contrasting model results, appears to stem from differences in the treatment of surface roughness. 
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