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Robust but weak winter atmospheric circulation response to future Arctic sea ice loss

Smith, D. M., Eade, R., Andrews, M. B., Ayres, H. ORCID:, Clark, A., Chripko, S., Deser, C., Dunstone, N. J., García-Serrano, J., Gastineau, G., Graff, L. S., Hardiman, S. C., He, B., Hermanson, L., Jung, T., Knight, T., Levine, X., Magnusdottir, G., Manzini, E., Matei, D. , Mori, M., Msadek, R., Ortega, P., Peings, Y., Scaife, A. A., Seabrook, M., Semmler, T., Sigmond, M., Streffing, J., Sun, L. and Walsh, A. (2022) Robust but weak winter atmospheric circulation response to future Arctic sea ice loss. Nature Communications, 13 (1). 727. ISSN 2041-1723

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-28283-y


The possibility that Arctic sea ice loss weakens mid-latitude westerlies, promoting more severe cold winters, has sparked more than a decade of scientific debate, with apparent support from observations but inconclusive modelling evidence. Here we show that sixteen models contributing to the Polar Amplification Model Intercomparison Project simulate a weakening of mid-latitude westerlies in response to projected Arctic sea ice loss. We develop an emergent constraint based on eddy feedback, which is 1.2 to 3 times too weak in the models, suggesting that the real-world weakening lies towards the higher end of the model simulations. Still, the modelled response to Arctic sea ice loss is weak: the North Atlantic Oscillation response is similar in magnitude and offsets the projected response to increased greenhouse gases, but would only account for around 10% of variations in individual years. We further find that relationships between Arctic sea ice and atmospheric circulation have weakened recently in observations and are no longer inconsistent with those in models.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:103018
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group


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