, Volume 40, Issue 3-4, pp 531-550,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 12 Dec 2012

The effects of aggressive mitigation on steric sea level rise and sea ice changes


With an increasing political focus on limiting global warming to less than 2 °C above pre-industrial levels it is vital to understand the consequences of these targets on key parts of the climate system. Here, we focus on changes in sea level and sea ice, comparing twenty-first century projections with increased greenhouse gas concentrations (using the mid-range IPCC A1B emissions scenario) with those under a mitigation scenario with large reductions in emissions (the E1 scenario). At the end of the twenty-first century, the global mean steric sea level rise is reduced by about a third in the mitigation scenario compared with the A1B scenario. Changes in surface air temperature are found to be poorly correlated with steric sea level changes. While the projected decreases in sea ice extent during the first half of the twenty-first century are independent of the season or scenario, especially in the Arctic, the seasonal cycle of sea ice extent is amplified. By the end of the century the Arctic becomes sea ice free in September in the A1B scenario in most models. In the mitigation scenario the ice does not disappear in the majority of models, but is reduced by 42 % of the present September extent. Results for Antarctic sea ice changes reveal large initial biases in the models and a significant correlation between projected changes and the initial extent. This latter result highlights the necessity for further refinements in Antarctic sea ice modelling for more reliable projections of future sea ice.