Climate Dynamics

, Volume 36, Issue 9, pp 1835-1849

First online:

Sensitivity of Hudson Bay Sea ice and ocean climate to atmospheric temperature forcing

  • S. JolyAffiliated withInstitut des Sciences de la Mer de Rimouski, Université du Québec à Rimouski
  • , S. SennevilleAffiliated withInstitut des Sciences de la Mer de Rimouski, Université du Québec à Rimouski Email author 
  • , D. CayaAffiliated withConsortium Ouranos
  • , F. J. SaucierAffiliated withInstitut des Sciences de la Mer de Rimouski, Université du Québec à Rimouski

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A regional sea-ice–ocean model was used to investigate the response of sea ice and oceanic heat storage in the Hudson Bay system to a climate-warming scenario. Projections of air temperature (for the years 2041–2070; effective CO2 concentration of 707–950 ppmv) obtained from the Canadian Regional Climate Model (CRCM 4.2.3), driven by the third-generation coupled global climate model (CGCM 3) for lateral atmospheric and land and ocean surface boundaries, were used to drive a single sensitivity experiment with the delta-change approach. The projected change in air temperature varies from 0.8°C (summer) to 10°C (winter), with a mean warming of 3.9°C. The hydrologic forcing in the warmer climate scenario was identical to the one used for the present climate simulation. Under this warmer climate scenario, the sea-ice season is reduced by 7–9 weeks. The highest change in summer sea-surface temperature, up to 5°C, is found in southeastern Hudson Bay, along the Nunavik coast and in James Bay. In central Hudson Bay, sea-surface temperature increases by over 3°C. Analysis of the heat content stored in the water column revealed an accumulation of additional heat, exceeding 3 MJ m−3, trapped along the eastern shore of James and Hudson bays during winter. Despite the stratification due to meltwater and river runoff during summer, the shallow coastal regions demonstrate a higher capacity of heat storage. The maximum volume of dense water produced at the end of winter was halved under the climate-warming perturbation. The maximum volume of sea ice is reduced by 31% (592 km³) while the difference in the maximum cover is only 2.6% (32,350 km2). Overall, the depletion of sea-ice thickness in Hudson Bay follows a southeast–northwest gradient. Sea-ice thickness in Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay is 50% thinner than in present climate conditions during wintertime. The model indicates that the greatest changes in both sea-ice climate and heat content would occur in southeastern Hudson Bay, James Bay, and Hudson Strait.