The sea ice mass budget of the Arctic and its future change as simulated by coupled climate models
Arctic sea ice mass budgets for the twentieth century and projected changes through the twenty-first century are assessed from 14 coupled global climate models. Large inter-model scatter in contemporary mass budgets is strongly related to variations in absorbed solar radiation, due in large part to differences in the surface albedo simulation. Over the twenty-first century, all models simulate a decrease in ice volume resulting from increased annual net melt (melt minus growth), partially compensated by reduced transport to lower latitudes. Despite this general agreement, the models vary considerably regarding the magnitude of ice volume loss and the relative roles of changing melt and growth in driving it. Projected changes in sea ice mass budgets depend in part on the initial (mid twentieth century) ice conditions; models with thicker initial ice generally exhibit larger volume losses. Pointing to the importance of evolving surface albedo and cloud properties, inter-model scatter in changing net ice melt is significantly related to changes in downwelling longwave and absorbed shortwave radiation. These factors, along with the simulated mean and spatial distribution of ice thickness, contribute to a large inter-model scatter in the projected onset of seasonally ice-free conditions.
KeywordsArctic sea ice Climate change Climate models
This study was supported by NASA grant NNG06GB26G and NSF grant ARC-0531040. We acknowledge the modeling groups, the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI) and the WCRP’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling (WGCM) for their roles in making available the WCRP CMIP3 multi-model dataset. Support of this dataset is provided by the Office of Science, US Department of Energy. NCAR is supported by the National Science Foundation.
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