, Volume 40, Issue 11-12, pp 2719-2743,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 01 Sep 2012

Arctic climate change in 21st century CMIP5 simulations with EC-Earth


The Arctic climate change is analyzed in an ensemble of future projection simulations performed with the global coupled climate model EC-Earth2.3. EC-Earth simulates the twentieth century Arctic climate relatively well but the Arctic is about 2 K too cold and the sea ice thickness and extent are overestimated. In the twenty-first century, the results show a continuation and strengthening of the Arctic trends observed over the recent decades, which leads to a dramatically changed Arctic climate, especially in the high emission scenario RCP8.5. The annually averaged Arctic mean near-surface temperature increases by 12 K in RCP8.5, with largest warming in the Barents Sea region. The warming is most pronounced in winter and autumn and in the lower atmosphere. The Arctic winter temperature inversion is reduced in all scenarios and disappears in RCP8.5. The Arctic becomes ice free in September in all RCP8.5 simulations after a rapid reduction event without recovery around year 2060. Taking into account the overestimation of ice in the twentieth century, our model results indicate a likely ice-free Arctic in September around 2040. Sea ice reductions are most pronounced in the Barents Sea in all RCPs, which lead to the most dramatic changes in this region. Here, surface heat fluxes are strongly enhanced and the cloudiness is substantially decreased. The meridional heat flux into the Arctic is reduced in the atmosphere but increases in the ocean. This oceanic increase is dominated by an enhanced heat flux into the Barents Sea, which strongly contributes to the large sea ice reduction and surface-air warming in this region. Increased precipitation and river runoff lead to more freshwater input into the Arctic Ocean. However, most of the additional freshwater is stored in the Arctic Ocean while the total Arctic freshwater export only slightly increases.