Projected changes in regional climate extremes arising from Arctic sea ice loss
Screen, James A.
Environmental Research Letters
The decline in Arctic sea ice cover has been widely documented and it is clear that this change is having profound impacts locally. An emerging and highly uncertain area of scientific research, however, is whether such Arctic change has a tangible effect on weather and climate at lower latitudes. Of particular societal relevance is the open question: will continued Arctic sea ice loss make mid-latitude weather more extreme? Here we analyse idealized atmospheric general circulation model simulations, using two independent models, both forced by projected Arctic sea ice loss in the late twenty-first century. We identify robust projected changes in regional temperature and precipitation extremes arising solely due to Arctic sea ice loss. The likelihood and duration of cold extremes are projected to decrease over high latitudes and over central and eastern North America, but to increase over central Asia. Hot extremes are projected to increase in frequency and duration over high latitudes. The likelihood and severity of wet extremes are projected to increase over high latitudes, the Mediterranean and central Asia; and their intensity is projected to increase over high latitudes and central and eastern Asia. The number of dry days over mid-latitude Eurasia and dry spell duration over high latitudes are both projected to decrease. There is closer model agreement for projected changes in temperature extremes than for precipitation extremes. Overall, we find that extreme weather over central and eastern North America is more sensitive to Arctic sea ice loss than over other mid-latitude regions. Our results are useful for constraining the role of Arctic sea ice loss in shifting the odds of extreme weather, but must not be viewed as deterministic projections, as they do not account for drivers other than Arctic sea ice loss.
We thank Robert Tomas for conducting some of the CAM4 simulations. The HadGAM2 simulations were performed on the ARCHER UK National Supercomputing Service. James Screen is supported by National Environmental Research Council grant NE/ J019585/1. The National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Polar Programs supported Lantao Sun. The NSF sponsors NCAR. Two anonymous reviewers are thanked for their time and expert feedback.
This is the final version of the article. Available from IOP Publishing via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 10 (2015) 084006