Climate Dynamics

, Volume 24, Issue 2–3, pp 115–130 | Cite as

Linking the northern hemisphere sea-ice reduction trend and the quasi-decadal arctic sea-ice oscillation



The nature of the reduction trend and quasi-decadal oscillation in Northern Hemisphere sea-ice extent is investigated. The trend and oscillation that seem to be two separate phenomena have been found in data. This study examines a hypothesis that the Arctic sea-ice reduction trend in the last three decades amplified the quasi-decadal Arctic sea-ice oscillation (ASIO) due to a positive ice/ocean-albedo feedback, based on data analysis and a conceptual model proposed by Ikeda et al. The theoretical, conceptual model predicts that the quasi-decadal oscillation is amplified by the thinning sea-ice, leading to the ASIO, which is driven by the strong positive feedback between the atmosphere and ice-ocean systems. Such oscillation is predicted to be out-of-phase between the Arctic Basin and the Nordic Seas with a phase difference of 3π/4, with the Nordic Seas leading the Arctic. The wavelet analysis of the sea ice data reveals that the quasi-decadal ASIO occurred actively since the 1970s following the trend starting in the 1960s (i.e., as sea-ice became thinner and thinner), as the atmosphere experienced quasi-decadal oscillations during the last century. The wavelet analysis also confirms the prediction of such out-of-phase feature between these two basins, which varied from 0.62π in 1960 to 0.25π in 1995. Furthermore, a coupled ice-ocean general circulation model (GCM) was used to simulate two scenarios, one without the greenhouse gas warming and the other having realistic atmospheric forcing along with the warming that leads to sea-ice reduction trend. The quasi-decadal ASIO is excited in the latter case compared to the no-warming case. The wavelet analyses of the simulated ice volume were also conducted to derive decadal ASIO and similar phase relationship between the Arctic Ocean and the Nordic Seas. An independent data source was used to confirm such decadal oscillation in the upper layer (or freshwater) thickness, which is consistent with the model simulation. A modified feedback loop for the sea-ice trend and ASIO was proposed based on the previous one by Mysak and Venegas and the ice/albedo and cloud/albedo feedabcks, which are responsible for the sea ice reduction trend.


Positive feedback Wavelet analysis Arctic Oscillation Arctic sea ice oscillation 



We sincerely thank the Frontier Research Center for Global Change, through JAMSTEC, Japan for financial support. The authors appreciate fruitful discussions with J. Miller, J. Walsh, L. Mysak, and S. Minobe. We sincerely thank D. Cavalieri of NASA for providing Fig. 1 that motivated this study. Assistance from J. Moss and I. Shapiro of IARC in some figures is also acknowledged. The reviewers provided valuable comments that helped improve the presentation of the work. This research was partly funded by the Bundesministerium für Forschung und Technologie under grant DEKLIM 01 LD 0047. J. Wang and S. Zhang appreciate partial support from CIFAR of University of Alaska Fairbanks.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Arctic Research CenterUniversity of Alaska FairbanksUSA
  2. 2.Graduate School of Environmental Earth ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  3. 3.Department of Mathematical SciencesUniversity of Alaska Fairbanks FairbanksUSA
  4. 4.Alfred-Wegener Institute for Polar ResearchBremerhavenGermany

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