Ocean Heat Transport as a Cause for Model Uncertainty in Projected Arctic Warming

Irina Mahlstein, Reto Knutti
2011 Journal of Climate  
The Arctic climate is governed by complex interactions and feedback mechanisms between the atmosphere, ocean, and solar radiation. One of its characteristic features, the Arctic sea ice, is very vulnerable to anthropogenically caused warming. Production and melting of sea ice is influenced by several physical processes. The authors show that the northward ocean heat transport is an important factor in the simulation of the sea ice extent in the current general circulation models. Those models
more » ... at transport more energy to the Arctic show a stronger future warming, in the Arctic as well as globally. Larger heat transport to the Arctic, in particular in the Barents Sea, reduces the sea ice cover in this area. More radiation is then absorbed during summer months and is radiated back to the atmosphere in winter months. This process leads to an increase in the surface temperature and therefore to a stronger polar amplification. The models that show a larger global warming agree better with the observed sea ice extent in the Arctic. In general, these models also have a higher spatial resolution. These results suggest that higher resolution and greater complexity are beneficial in simulating the processes relevant in the Arctic and that future warming in the high northern latitudes is likely to be near the upper range of model projections, consistent with recent evidence that many climate models underestimate Arctic sea ice decline.
doi:10.1175/2010jcli3713.1 fatcat:657yidb75bhklgy5sqzluyf5ky