Climate Dynamics Group
at the University of California, Santa Cruz

Current-climate sea ice amount and seasonality as constraints for future Arctic amplification

research paper
  • Olivia Linke
  • Nicole Feldl
  • Johannes Quaas
updates ↓

08/29/23 Linke, O., N. Feldl, and J. Quaas (2023), Environmental Research: Climate, in press, doi:10.1088/2752-5295/acf4b7.

The recent Arctic sea ice loss is a key driver of the amplified surface warming in the northern high latitudes, and simultaneously a major source of uncertainty in model projections of Arctic climate change. Previous work has shown that the spread in model predictions of future Arctic amplification (AA) can be traced back to the inter-model spread in simulated long-term sea ice loss. We demonstrate that the strength of future AA is further linked to the current climate’s, observable sea ice state across the multi-model ensemble of the 6th Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6). The implication is that the sea-ice climatology sets the stage for long-term changes through the 21st century, which mediate the degree by which Arctic warming is amplified with respect to global warming. We determine that a lower base-climate sea ice extent and sea ice concentration (SIC) in CMIP6 models enable stronger ice melt in both future climate and during the seasonal cycle. In particular, models with lower Arctic-mean SIC project stronger future ice loss and a more intense seasonal cycle in ice melt and growth. Both processes systemically link to a larger future AA across climate models. These results are manifested by the role of climate feedbacks that have been widely identified as major drivers of AA. We show in particular that models with low base-climate SIC predict a systematically stronger warming contribution through both sea-ice albedo feedback and temperature feedbacks in the future, as compared to models with high SIC. From our derived linear regressions in conjunction with observations, we estimate a 21st-century AA over sea ice of 2.47-3.34 with respect to global warming. Lastly, from the tight relationship between base-climate SIC and the projected timing of an ice-free September, we predict a seasonally ice-free Arctic by mid-century under a high-emission scenario.