Spurious Climate Impacts in Coupled Sea Ice Loss Simulations
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Spurious Climate Impacts in Coupled Sea Ice Loss Simulations


Abstract Previous studies have used coupled climate model simulations with perturbed sea ice covers to assess the impact of future Arctic sea ice loss. The results of these studies suggest that Arctic sea ice loss will cause substantial climate impacts in the Arctic and beyond. The approaches used in these simulations can be broadly categorized into three methods: adding a ghost flux to the sea ice module, nudging, and modifying the surface albedo. Here we show that all three methods ultimately add heat to the Arctic in order to melt the sea ice, and that this artificial heating causes a spurious warming signal that is added to the warming that occurs due to sea ice loss alone. We illustrate this using an idealized climate model, which provides a preliminary rough estimate of the effect. In this model, the annual-mean warming due to sea ice loss alone can be directly calculated. We compare this with the warming that would be attributed to sea ice loss using each of the three methods in the idealized model. The results suggest that each method substantially overestimates the warming due to sea ice loss alone, overestimating the surface warming throughout the Northern Hemisphere by a factor of 1.5–2 in the idealized model. Hence, these results suggest that previous coupled climate modeling studies have overestimated the climate response to sea ice loss.

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