Tropical Pacific Variability and its Influence on Twenty-First Century Arctic Sea Ice Loss

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 8:45 AM
121BC (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Justin J. Wettstein, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR; and C. Deser

Large declines in Arctic sea ice volume and summer sea ice extent are generally anticipated for the coming decades, based upon their trajectory in available observations and within a wide variety of greenhouse gas-forced model projections. Substantial uncertainty regarding the magnitude of twenty-first century Arctic sea ice loss remains, however. Two studies are presented that document the existence of an atmospheric teleconnection between the tropical Pacific and the Arctic on time scales ranging from the interannual to the multi-decadal.

In the first, internal variability in twenty-first-century summer Arctic sea ice loss and its relationship to the large-scale atmospheric circulation is investigated in a 39-member Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3) ensemble for the period 20002061. Each member is subject to an identical greenhouse gas emissions scenario and differs only in the atmospheric model component's initial condition. A surprisingly large factor of three range in the multi-decadal trends of Arctic sea ice loss results, which can only be attributed to internal variability. Higher rates of summer Arctic sea ice loss in CCSM3 are associated with enhanced transpolar drift and Fram Strait ice export driven by surface wind and sea level pressure patterns. Outside the Arctic, an atmospheric Rossby wave train over the Pacific sector is associated with internal ice loss variability. The structure of the atmospheric teleconnection patterns in CCSM3 suggests that the tropical Pacific modulates Arctic sea ice loss via the aforementioned Rossby wave train. The second study generally corroborates results in the first by documenting qualitatively similar relationships in a newer model version and across a Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) ensemble. Hints of a similar tropical Pacific-Arctic sea ice variability relationship are also present in various reanalyses at the interannual time scale.