Arctic Sea Ice Loss in Different Regions Leads to Contrasting Northern Hemisphere Impacts

13 Mar 2018

To explore the mechanisms linking Arctic sea-ice loss to changes in mid-latitude surface temperatures, we conduct idealized modeling experiments using an intermediate general circulation model and with sea-ice loss confined to the Atlantic or Pacific sectors of the Arctic (Barents-Kara or Chukchi-Bering Seas). Extending previous findings, there are opposite effects on the winter stratospheric polar vortex for both large-magnitude (late twenty-first century) and moderate-magnitude sea-ice loss. Accordingly, there are opposite tropospheric Arctic Oscillation (AO) responses for moderate-magnitude sea-ice loss. However, there are similar strength negative AO responses for large-magnitude sea-ice loss, suggesting that tropospheric mechanisms become relatively more important than stratospheric mechanisms as the sea-ice loss magnitude increases. The mid-latitude surface temperature response for each loss region and magnitude can be understood as the combination of an ‘indirect’ part induced by the large-scale circulation (AO) response, and a residual ‘direct’ part that is local to the loss region.