John Marshall

Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Oceanography, MIT

Sensitivity of Antarctic sea ice to the Southern Annual Mode in coupled climate models

Sensitivity of Antarctic sea ice to the Southern Annual Mode in coupled climate models.

(Holland, M., Landrum, L., Kostov, Y., and J. Marshall), Climate Dynamics, pp. pages, 2016.


We assess the sea ice response to Southern Annular Mode (SAM) anomalies for pre-industrial control simulations from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). Consistent with work by Ferreira et al. (J Clim 28:1206–1226, 2015. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00313.1), the models generally simulate a two-timescale response to positive SAM anomalies, with an initial increase in ice followed by an eventual sea ice decline. However, the models differ in the cross-over time at which the change in ice response occurs, in the overall magnitude of the response, and in the spatial distribution of the response. Late twentieth century Antarctic sea ice trends in CMIP5 simulations are related in part to different modeled responses to SAM variability acting on different time-varying transient SAM conditions. This explains a significant fraction of the spread in simulated late twentieth century southern hemisphere sea ice extent trends across the model simulations. Applying the modeled sea ice response to SAM variability but driven by the observed record of SAM suggests that variations in the austral summer SAM, which has exhibited a significant positive trend, have driven a modest sea ice decrease. However, additional work is needed to narrow the considerable model uncertainty in the climate response to SAM variability and its implications for 20th–21st century trends.

doi = 10.1007/s00382-016-3424-9