4A.4 Detection of Signal in the Large-Scale Circulation Response to Arctic Sea-Ice Decline

Tuesday, 14 January 2020: 9:15 AM
150 (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Zachary M. Labe, Univ. of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA; and Y. Peings and G. Magnusdottir

Substantial disagreement continues between modeling studies in attributing midlatitude climate extremes to Arctic sea-ice anomalies. This is a result of uncertainties due to internal variability, nonlinear interactions, model biases, or more likely a combination of these effects. In this study, we use large ensembles from two high-top atmospheric general circulation models (SC-WACCM4 and E3SM) to separate the sea ice-forced signal from atmospheric internal variability (noise). Following protocol for the Polar Amplification Model Intercomparison Project (PAMIP), each simulation is prescribed with either pre-industrial, present-day, or future levels of sea-ice concentration, which are associated with global warming projections of 2°C. We use 300 ensemble members per simulation to obtain large sample sizes for robust statistics in the context of internal variability.

While an equatorward shift of the eddy-driven jet is found in boreal winter, the response to future sea-ice loss is small relative to climatology and highly sensitive to the number of ensemble members considered. On average, a sea ice-forced signal in the large-scale circulation cannot be distinguished from atmospheric internal variability in our simulations. A low signal-to-noise ratio is also demonstrated in the stratosphere, where the sign of the polar vortex response can be interpreted differently depending on the ensemble size. However, the local thermodynamic effects are statistically significant with strong surface warming and increases in precipitation found in the vicinity of newly ice-free areas. This warming is generally confined to the Arctic, and there is little response in the midlatitudes. Our results highlight the important role of internal variability in the extratropics and emphasize the need for especially large ensembles (>150-200 members) when assessing the dynamical response to both present-day and future Arctic sea-ice loss.

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