Mechanisms of Stratospheric and Tropospheric Circulation Response to Projected Arctic Sea Ice Loss
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Mechanisms of Stratospheric and Tropospheric Circulation Response to Projected Arctic Sea Ice Loss

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  • Description:
    The impact of projected Arctic sea ice loss on the atmospheric circulation is investigated using the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM), a model with a well-resolved stratosphere. Two 160-yr simulations are conducted: one with surface boundary conditions fixed at late twentieth-century values and the other with identical conditions except for Arctic sea ice, which is prescribed at late twenty-first-century values. Their difference isolates the impact of future Arctic sea ice loss upon the atmosphere. The tropospheric circulation response to the imposed ice loss resembles the negative phase of the northern annular mode, with the largest amplitude in winter, while the less well-known stratospheric response transitions from a slight weakening of the polar vortex in winter to a strengthening of the vortex in spring. The lack of a significant winter stratospheric circulation response is shown to be a consequence of largely cancelling effects from sea ice loss in the Atlantic and Pacific sectors, which drive opposite-signed changes in upward wave propagation from the troposphere to the stratosphere. Identical experiments conducted with Community Atmosphere Model, version 4, WACCM's low-top counterpart, show a weaker tropospheric response and a different stratospheric response compared to WACCM. An additional WACCM experiment in which the imposed ice loss is limited to August-November reveals that autumn ice loss weakens the stratospheric polar vortex in January, followed by a small but significant tropospheric response in late winter and early spring that resembles the negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation, with attendant surface climate impacts.
  • Source:
    Journal of Climate, 28(19), 7824-7845.
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