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Keywords:

  • Arctic;
  • sea ice;
  • atmospheric modelling

Abstract

There is growing recognition that reductions in Arctic sea ice extent will influence patterns of atmospheric circulation both within and beyond the Arctic. We explore the impact of 2007 ice conditions (the second lowest Arctic sea ice extent in the satellite era) on atmospheric circulation and surface temperatures and fluxes through a series of model experiments with the NCAR Community Atmospheric Model version 3 (CAM3). Two 30-year simulations were performed; one using climatological sea ice extent for the end of the 20th century and other using observed sea ice extent from 2007. Circulation differences over the Northern Hemisphere were most prominent during autumn and winter with lower sea level pressure (SLP) and tropospheric pressure simulated over much of the Arctic for the 2007 sea ice experiment. The atmospheric response to 2007 ice conditions was much weaker during summer, with negative SLP anomalies simulated from Alaska across the Arctic to Greenland. Higher temperatures and larger surface fluxes to the atmosphere in areas of anomalous open water were also simulated. CAM3 experiment results were compared to observed SLP anomalies from the National Center for Environmental Prediction/National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP/NCAR) Reanalysis data. The observed SLP anomalies during spring are nearly opposite to those simulated. In summer, large differences were shown between the observed and simulated SLP also, suggesting that the sea ice conditions in the months preceding and during the summer of 2007 were not responsible for creating an atmospheric circulation pattern which favoured the large observed sea ice loss. The simulated and observed atmospheric circulation anomalies during autumn and winter were more similar than spring and summer, with the exception of a strong high pressure system in the Beaufort Sea which was not simulated, suggesting that the forced atmospheric response to reduced sea ice was in part responsible for the observed atmospheric circulation anomalies during autumn and winter.