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Arctic Climate Research at the University of Illinois



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Projections of Surface Air Temperature Change and Sea Ice Retreat in the Arctic

Climate Model: Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, CGCM3.1 Model, T63

General circulation models (GCMs) project greater warming in the Arctic than anywhere else in the world. This is especially true in the winter months. These animations show that the largest warming over the late 20th- and 21st-centuries is projected to occur over the southern boundaries of the current sea ice limits. Projected changes of temperature (left) and sea ice (right) are shown for eleven global climate models (GCMs) for winter (DJF - top) and summer (JJA- bottom) months. Surface air temperature warming and reduced sea ice is shown as yellow and red in the images, while surface cooling and increased sea ice extent is shown in green and blue. For reference, the mean southern extent of the sea ice for the 1901-1950 period is indicated as a thin black line on all the images.

Surface warming of more than 20 deg. C. is expected during winter where sea ice does not form in the late-period GCM projections. Sea ice acts to insulate the cold Arctic winter air temperatures from the relatively warm underlying ocean surface during the 20th-century, but a lack of sea ice refreezing as greenhouse gases increase leads to larger fractions of the Arctic Ocean being sea ice free. In these future ice-free locations, surface air temperatures are constrained to near 0 deg. C - a large contrast from their climatological normals (-20 to -30 deg. C).

While there is considerable sea ice loss projected by the models during 21st-century summer months, the relative stability and thermal inertia of the Arctic Ocean are projected to mute the warming of the surface when compared to the warming of the adjacent land areas.

Output from additional global climate models are available in the left-column menu.