Journal article Open Access

Investigating future changes in the volume budget of the Arctic sea ice in a coupled climate model

Keen, Ann; Blockley, Ed

We present a method for analysing changes in the modelled volume budget of the Arctic sea ice as the ice declines during the 21st century. We apply the method to the CMIP5 global coupled model HadGEM2-ES to evaluate how the budget components evolve under a range of different forcing scenarios. As the climate warms and the ice cover declines, the sea ice processes that change the most in HadGEM2-ES are summer melting at the top surface of the ice due to increased net downward radiation and basal melting due to extra heat from the warming ocean. There is also extra basal ice formation due to the thinning ice. However, the impact of these changes on the volume budget is affected by the declining ice cover. For example, as the autumn ice cover declines the volume of ice formed by basal growth declines as there is a reduced area over which this ice growth can occur. As a result, the biggest contribution to Arctic ice decline in HadGEM2-ES is the reduction in the total amount of basal ice growth during the autumn and early winter.

Changes in the volume budget during the 21st century have a distinctive seasonal cycle, with processes contributing to ice decline occurring in May–June and September to November. During July and August the total amount of sea ice melt decreases, again due to the reducing ice cover.

The choice of forcing scenario affects the rate of ice decline and the timing and magnitude of changes in the volume budget components. For the HadGEM2-ES model and for the range of scenarios considered for CMIP5, the mean changes in the volume budget depend strongly on the evolving ice area and are independent of the speed at which the ice cover declines.

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