Modeled Interannual Variability of Arctic Sea Ice Cover is within Observational Uncertainty
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Modeled Interannual Variability of Arctic Sea Ice Cover is within Observational Uncertainty

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  • Journal Title:
    Journal of Climate
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  • Description:
    Internal variability is the dominant cause of projection uncertainty of Arctic sea ice in the short and medium term. However, it is difficult to determine the realism of simulated internal variability in climate models, as observations only provide one possible realization while climate models can provide numerous different realizations. To enable a robust assessment of simulated internal variability of Arctic sea ice, we use a resampling technique to build synthetic ensembles for both observations and climate models, focusing on interannual variability, which is the dominant time scale of Arctic sea ice internal variability. We assess the realism of the interannual variability of Arctic sea ice cover as simulated by six models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) that provide large ensembles compared to four observational datasets. We augment the standard definition of model and observational consistency by representing the full distribution of resamplings, analogous to the distribution of variability that could have randomly occurred. We find that modeled interannual variability typically lies within observational uncertainty. The three models with the smallest mean state biases are the only ones consistent in the pan-Arctic for all months, but no model is consistent for all regions and seasons. Hence, choosing the right model for a given task as well as using internal variability as an additional metric to assess sea ice simulations is important. The fact that CMIP5 large ensembles broadly simulate interannual variability consistent within observational uncertainty gives confidence in the internal projection uncertainty for Arctic sea ice based on these models. Significance Statement The purpose of this study is to evaluate the historical simulated internal variability of Arctic sea ice in climate models. Determining model realism is important to have confidence in the projected sea ice evolution from these models, but so far only mean state and trends are commonly assessed metrics. Here we assess internal variability with a focus on the interannual variability, which is the dominant time scale for internal variability. We find that, in general, models agree well with observations, but as no model is within observational uncertainty for all months and locations, choosing the right model for a given task is crucial. Further refinement of internal variability realism assessments will require reduced observational uncertainty.
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    Journal of Climate, 35(20), 3227-3242
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    0894-8755;1520-0442;
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