, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 61-83

A mechanism of decadal variability of the sea-ice volume in the Northern Hemisphere

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A long-term simulation performed with a coarse-resolution, global, atmosphere–ocean–sea-ice model displays strong decadal variability of the sea-ice volume in the Northern Hemisphere with a significant peak at about 15–18 years. This model results from the coupling of ECBILT, a spectral T21, 3-level quasi-geostrophic atmospheric model, and CLIO, a sea-ice–ocean general circulation model. First, the mechanism underlying the variability of ice volume in the model was studied by performing correlation analyses between the simulated variables. In a second step, a series of additional sensitivity experiments was performed in order to illustrate the role of specific physical processes. This has allowed us to identify a feedback loop in the ice–ocean system, which proceeds as follows: an increase in Arctic sea-ice volume induces an increase in the salinity there. This salinity anomaly is transported to the Greenland Sea where it promotes convective activity. This warms up the surface oceanic layer and the atmosphere in winter and induces a decrease of the ice volume, completing half a cycle. The changes in ice volume are driven by a geopotential height pattern characterised by centres of action of opposite signs over Greenland and the Barents–Kara–Central Arctic area. Thermodynamic feedback between the ice and the atmosphere appear also to be very important for the persistence of the oscillation. The dynamical response of the atmosphere to sea-ice and temperature anomalies at surface plays a smaller role.

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