, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 37-58
Date: 27 Apr 2007

Causes and impacts of changes in the Arctic freshwater budget during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in an AOGCM

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Abstract

The fourth version of the atmosphere-ocean general circulation (AOGCM) model developed at the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace (IPSL-CM4) is used to investigate the mechanisms influencing the Arctic freshwater balance in response to anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcing. The freshwater influence on the interannual variability of deep winter oceanic convection in the Nordic Seas is also studied on the basis of correlation and regression analyses of detrended variables. The model shows that the Fram Strait outflow, which is an important source of freshwater for the northern North Atlantic, experiences a rapid and strong transition from a weak state toward a relatively strong state during 1990–2010. The authors propose that this climate shift is triggered by the retreat of sea ice in the Barents Sea during the late twentieth century. This sea ice reduction initiates a positive feedback in the atmosphere-sea ice-ocean system that alters both the atmospheric and oceanic circulations in the Greenland-Iceland-Norwegian (GIN)-Barents Seas sector. Around year 2080, the model predicts a second transition threshold beyond which the Fram Strait outflow is restored toward its original weak value. The long-term freshening of the GIN Seas is invoked to explain this rapid transition. It is further found that the mechanism of interannual changes in deep mixing differ fundamentally between the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This difference is caused by the dominant influence of freshwater over the twenty-first century. In the GIN Seas, the interannual changes in the liquid freshwater export out of the Arctic Ocean through Fram Strait combined with the interannual changes in the liquid freshwater import from the North Atlantic are shown to have a major influence in driving the interannual variability of the deep convection during the twenty-first century. South of Iceland, the other region of deep water renewal in the model, changes in freshwater import from the North Atlantic constitute the dominant forcing of deep convection on interannual time scales over the twenty-first century.