Tag: dörr

On the trail of the disappearing polar sea ice

Jakob Dörr is a PhD student at the University of Bergen, working with Marius Årthun in the BCPU research area on “Understanding mechanisms for climate predictability”. In the spring of 2022, he travelled to California, to visit Dave Bonan. For four weeks, Jakob had the opportunity to work with Dave and his working group at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. Dave is also a PhD student, and also interested in understanding present and future changes in the Earth’s sea ice cover, and which processes these are caused by.

In the Arctic, the sea ice cover has strongly declined in all seasons over the last 40 years, and this is mostly due to the Earth’s warming, driven by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. However, because the sea ice interacts with the ocean and the atmosphere and is thus part of the chaotic climate system, it is affected by random fluctuations and internal variability which is independent from the long-term warming trend. These variability modes can affect the sea ice for periods of up to several decades. It is therefore not entirely clear exactly how much of the sea ice loss we have observed over the last decades was due to global warming, and how much was because of internal variability. Dave and Jakob are working to detect and separate those variability modes that affect the sea ice over long periods (decades and longer) in the observational record of sea ice. They use a novel technique developed by Robb Wills at the University of Washington.

Jakob and Dave are hoping to determine for different regions of the Arctic, which modes of variability affect the sea ice cover, and how much their influence compares to the long-term sea ice loss due to global warming. This will help to understand and attribute past sea ice changes and enhance our ability to predict the future regional sea ice loss. While Jakob focuses on the Arctic, Dave applies the same technique to the Antarctic, where a steady increase in sea ice cover over the last decades, followed by a strong decline since 2016, has been observed. Their analysis might shed some light on the mechanisms behind this puzzling evolution, and how much of it was caused by changes due to global warming. The goal of the BCPU-supported visit was to prepare work for two separate publications on Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, respectively, and to discuss how experience from observations can be applied to analyse climate model simulations of future sea ice change.


“During the visit, we exchanged our experience and discussed new ideas for our analysis. I also got to meet scientists in both the Oceanography (Andrew Thompson) and the Climate Dynamics (Tapio Schneider) group at Caltech. I was also lucky to come at a time where Caltech was opening fully again, with many international scientists visiting the institute. Furthermore, I got invited to be part of a sea ice reading course where we had intense discussions about sea ice models, trends and mechanisms with Dave and other members of the Oceanography group. On top of that, I had the chance to visit some friends from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego. I had a lot of interactions during the visit and learned a lot about how science is conducted at Caltech and other US institutions. I hope that I can continue the collaboration between Caltech and the Bjerknes Center beyond our work on sea ice observations. The visit showed me how important it is to physically meet people to exchange ideas and develop collaborations across the globe. There are plans that Dave visits us in Bergen next spring, and I hope to return to Pasadena after that.” – Jakob Dörr

Mechanisms of regional winter sea-ice variability in a warming Arctic

Dörr, J., Årthun, M., Eldevik, T., Madonna, E. 2021: Mechanisms of regional winter sea-ice variability in a warming Arctic. Journal of Climate. https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-21-0149.1 .

Summary: The Arctic winter sea ice cover is in retreat overlaid by large internal variability. Changes to sea ice are driven by exchange of heat, momentum, and freshwater within and between the ocean and the atmosphere. Using a combination of observations and output from the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble, we analyze and contrast present and future drivers of the regional winter sea ice cover. Consistent with observations and previous studies, we find that for the recent decades ocean heat transport though the Barents Sea and Bering Strait is a major source of sea ice variability in the Atlantic and Pacific sectors of the Arctic, respectively. Future projections show a gradually expanding footprint of Pacific and Atlantic inflows highlighting the importance of future Atlantification and Pacification of the Arctic Ocean. While the dominant hemispheric modes of winter atmospheric circulation are only weakly connected to the sea ice, we find distinct local atmospheric circulation patterns associated with present and future regional sea ice variability in the Atlantic and Pacific sectors, consistent with heat and moisture transport from lower latitudes. Even if the total freshwater input from rivers is projected to increase substantially, its influence on simulated sea ice is small in the context of internal variability.

Link to publication. You are most welcome to contact us or the corresponding author(s) directly, if you have questions.

Future Abrupt Changes in Winter Barents Sea Ice Area

Rieke, Ole (2021-06-01). Future Abrupt Changes in Winter Barents Sea Ice Area (Master’s thesis, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway). https://bora.uib.no/bora-xmlui/handle/11250/2762637 .

Summary: The Barents Sea is an area of strong anthropogenic winter sea ice loss that is superimposed by pronounced internal variability on interannual to multidecadal timescales. This internal variability represents a source of large uncertainty in future climate projections in the Barents Sea. This study aims to investigate internal variability of Barents Sea ice area and its driving mechanisms in future climate simulations of the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble under the RCP8.5 climate scenario. We find that although sea ice area is projected to decline towards ice-free conditions, internal variability remains strong until late in the 21st century. A substantial part of this variability is expressed as events of abrupt change in the sea ice cover. These internally-driven events with a duration of 5-9 years can mask or enhance the anthropogenically-forced sea ice trend and lead to substantial ice growth or ice loss. Abrupt sea ice trends are a common feature of the Barents Sea in the future until the region becomes close to ice-free. Interannual variability in general, and in form of these sub-decadal events specifically, is forced by a combination of ocean heat transport, meridional winds and ice import, with ocean heat transport as the most dominant contributor. Our analysis shows that the influence of these mechanisms remains largely unchanged throughout the simulation. Investigation of a simulation from the same model where global warming is limited to 2°C shows that both mean and variability of sea ice area in the Barents Sea can be sustained at a substantial level in the future, and that abrupt changes can continue to occur frequently and produce sea ice cover of similar extent to present day climate. This highlights that future emissions play an essential role in the further decline of the Barents Sea winter sea ice cover. The results of this thesis contribute to a better understanding of Arctic sea ice variability on different time scales, and especially on the role of internal variability which is important in order to predict future sea ice changes under anthropogenic warming.

Link to publication. You are most welcome to contact us or the corresponding author(s) directly, if you have questions.

The seasonal and regional transition to an ice‐free Arctic

Arthun, M., Onarheim, I. H., Dörr, J., Eldevik, T. 2020: The seasonal and regional transition to an ice‐free Arctic. Geophysical Research Letters 47. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020GL090825
Summary: We examine current and future Arctic sea ice loss in the latest generation of global climate models (CMIP6) focusing on regional and seasonal variability. We find that, unlike today, future Arctic sea ice loss will take place in all regions and all seasons. All Arctic shelf seas will become ice free in summer even if we follow a low emission scenario. Although future sea ice loss also takes place in winter, only the Barents Sea becomes ice free in winter before the end of this century.

Link to publication. You are most welcome to contact us or the corresponding author(s) directly, if you have questions.