, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 149-162

Arctic sea ice decay simulated for a CO2-induced temperature rise

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Abstract

A large scale numerical time-dependent model of sea ice that takes into account the heat fluxes in and out of the ice, the seasonal occurrence of snow, and ice motions has been used in an experiment to determine the response of the Arctic Ocean ice pack to a warming of the atmosphere. The degree of warming specified is that expected for a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide with its associated greenhouse effect, a condition that could occur before the middle of the next century. The results of three 5-year simulations with a warmer atmosphere and varied boundary conditions were: (1) that in the face of a 5 K surface atmospheric temperature increase the ice pack disappeared completely in August and September but reformed in the central Arctic Ocean in mid fall; (2) that the simulations were moderately dependent on assumptions concerning cloud cover; and (3) that even when atmospheric temperature increases of 6–9 K were combined with an order-of-magnitude increase in the upward heat flux from the ocean, the ice still reappeared in winter. It should be noted that a year-round ice-free Arctic Ocean has apparently not existed for a million years or more.

Currently on leave, working for the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, on the World Climate Programme.
The calculations for this work were carried out while both authors were at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.