Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 31 Issue 02

View Issue TOC
Volume 31, No. 2
Pages 118 - 125

Increased Arctic Precipitation Slows Down Sea Ice Melt and Surface Warming

Richard Bintanja Caroline A. KatsmanFrank M. Selten
Article Abstract

Climate model projections of future climate change exhibit a robust increase in Arctic precipitation, which invokes an array of climate effects. Idealized climate model simulations with artificially increased Arctic precipitation rates exhibit cooling of near-surface atmospheric temperatures and sea ice expansion. We show here that this cooling cannot be attributed to increased surface albedo from fresh snow and less absorption of solar radiation by sea ice, but rather to a reduction in upward oceanic heat flux. This reduction in heat flux is due to increased precipitation that leads to fresher ocean surface waters and, hence, to more stable stratification of the upper Arctic Ocean. This stratification results in cooling of the ocean surface and warming of deeper ocean layers. The simulations show that sea ice expansion and surface cooling peak in the Barents Sea, a region that is very sensitive to changes in mixed layer depth, which decreases considerably there. In the context of a warming Arctic, with concurrent 50% increases in precipitation in 2100, this negative feedback is estimated to slow down projected RCP8.5 Arctic warming by up to 2.0°C in winter and sea ice retreat by a maximum of 11% in autumn, although seasonal variations are considerable.

Citation

Bintanja, R., C.A. Katsman, and F.M. Selten. 2018. Increased Arctic precipitation slows down sea ice melt and surface warming. Oceanography 31(2):118–125, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2018.204.

References

Bengtsson, L., K.I. Hodges, S. Koumoutsaris, M. Zahn, and N. Keenlyside. 2011. The changing atmospheric water cycle in polar regions in a warmer climate. Tellus A 63:907–920, https://doi.org/​10.1111/j.1600-0870.2011.00534.x.

Bintanja, R., and O. Andry. 2017. Towards a rain-​​dominated Arctic. Nature Climate Change 7:263–267, https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3240.

Bintanja, R., and F. Krikken. 2016. Magnitude and pattern of Arctic warming governed by the seasonality of radiative forcing. Nature Scientific Reports 6:38287, https://www.nature.com/articles/srep38287.

Bintanja, R., and F.M. Selten. 2014. Future increases in Arctic precipitation linked to local evaporation and sea ice retreat. Nature 509:479–482, https://doi.org/​10.1038/nature13259.

Bintanja, R., and E.C. van der Linden. 2013. The changing seasonal climate in the Arctic. Scientific Reports 3:1556, https://doi.org/10.1038/srep01556.

Bintanja, R., G.J. Van Oldenborgh, S.S. Drijfhout, B. Wouters, and C.A. Katsman. 2013. Important role for ocean warming and increased ice-shelf melt in Antarctic sea-ice expansion. Nature Geoscience 6(5):376–379, https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1767.

Collins, M., R. Knutti, J. Arblaster, J.-L. Dufresne, T. Fichefet, P. Friedlingstein, X. Gao, W.J. Gutowski, T. Johns, G. Krinner, and others. 2013. Long-term climate change: Projections, commitments and irreversibility. Pp. 1,029–1,136 (Chapter 12) in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex, and P.M. Midgley, eds, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, and New York, NY, USA.

Eicken, H., H.R. Krouse, D. Kadko, and D.K. Perovich. 2002. Tracer studies of pathways and rates of meltwater transport through Arctic summer sea ice. Journal of Geophysical Research 107(C10):SHE 22-1–SHE 22-20, https://doi.org/​10.1029/2000JC000583.

Francis, J.A., D.M. White, J.J. Cassano, W.J. Gutowski Jr., L.D. Hinzman, M.M. Holland, M.A. Steele, and C.J. Vörösmarty. 2009. An Arctic hydrologic system in transition: Feedbacks and impacts on terrestrial, marine, and human life. Journal of Geophysical Research 114, G04019, https://doi.org/10.1029/2008JG000902.

Hazeleger, W., C. Severigins, T. Semmier, S. Ştefănescu, S. Yang, X. Wang, K. Wyser, E. Dutra, J.M. Baldasano, R. Bintanja, and others. 2010. EC-Earth: A seamless Earth system prediction approach in action. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 91:1,357–1,363, https://doi.org/​10.1175/​2010BAMS2877.1.

Holland, M.M., J. Finnis, A.P. Barrett, and M.C. Serreze. 2007. Projected changes in Arctic Ocean freshwater budgets. Journal of Geophysical Research 112, G04S55, https://doi.org/​10.1029/​2006JG000354.

Kattsov, V.M., and J.E. Walsh. 2000. Twentieth-century trends of Arctic precipitation from observational data and a climate model simulation. Journal of Climate 13:1,362–1,370, https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0442(2000)013<1362:TCTOAP>2.0.CO;2.

Kug, J.S., D.H. Choi, F.-F. Jin, W-T. Kwon, and H.-L. Ren. 2010. Role of synoptic eddy feedback on polar climate responses to the anthropogenic forcing. Geophysical Research Letters 37, L14704, https://doi.org/10.1029/2010GL043673.

Min, S.K., X. Zhang, and F. Zwiers. 2008. Human-induced Arctic moistening. Science 320:518–520, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1153468.

Notz, D., and J. Stroeve. 2016. Observed Arctic sea-ice loss directly follows anthropogenic CO2 emission. Science 354:747–750, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aag2345.

Nummelin, A., C. Li, and L.H. Smedsrud. 2015. Response of Arctic Ocean stratification to changing river runoff in a column model. Journal of Geophysical Research 120:2,655–2,675, https://doi.org/10.1002/2014JC010571.

Nummelin, A., M. Ilicak, C. Li, and L.H. Smedsrud. 2016. Consequences of future increased Arctic runoff on Arctic Ocean stratification, circulation, and sea ice cover. Journal of Geophysical Research 121:617–637, https://doi.org/​10.1002/​2015JC011156.

Peterson, B.J., R.M. Holmes, J.W. McClelland, C.J. Vörösmarty, R.B. Lammers, A.I. Shiklomanov, I.A. Shiklomanov, and S. Rahmstorf. 2002. Increasing river discharge to the Arctic Ocean. Science 298:2,171–2,173, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1077445.

Pithan, F., and T. Mauritsen. 2014. Arctic amplification dominated by temperature feedbacks in contemporary climate models. Nature Geoscience 7(3):181–184, https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2071.

Screen, J. A., and I. Simmonds. 2010. The central role of diminishing sea ice in recent Arctic temperature amplification. Nature 464:1,334–1,337, https://doi.org/​10.1038/nature09051.

Screen, J.A., and I. Simmonds. 2012. Declining summer snowfall in the Arctic: Causes, impacts and feedbacks. Climate Dynamics 38:2,243–2,256, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-011-1105-2.

van der Linden, E.C., R. Bintanja, and W. Hazeleger. 2017. Arctic decadal variability in a warming world. Journal of Geophysical Research 122:5,677–5,696, https://doi.org/10.1002/2016JD026058.

Vancoppenolle, M., L. Bopp, G. Madec, J. Dunne, T. Ilynia, P.R. Halloran, and N. Steiner. 2013. Future Arctic Ocean primary productivity from CMIP5 simulations: Uncertain outcome, but consistent mechanisms. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 27(3):605–619, https://doi.org/10.1002/gbc.20055.

Vihma, T., J. Screen, M. Tjernström, B. Newton, X. Zhang, V. Popova, C. Deser, M. Holland, and T. Prowse. 2016. The atmospheric role in the Arctic water cycle: A review on processes, past and future changes, and their impacts. Journal of Geophysical Research 121:586–620, https://doi.org/​10.1002/​2015JG003132.

Walsh, J.E., F. Fetterer, J.S. Stewart, and W.L. Chapman. 2017. A database for depicting Arctic sea ice variations back to 1850. Geographical Review 107:89–107, https://doi.org/​10.1111/​j.1931-​0846.​2016.12195.x.

Zhang, X., J. He, J. Zhang, I. Polyakov, R. Gerdes, J. Inoue, and P. Wu. 2013. Enhanced poleward moisture transport and amplified northern high-latitude wetting trend. Nature Climate Change 3:47–51, https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1631.