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Contribution of sea-ice loss to Arctic amplification is regulated by Pacific Ocean decadal variability
Screen, J.A.; Francis, J.A. (2016). Contribution of sea-ice loss to Arctic amplification is regulated by Pacific Ocean decadal variability. Nat. Clim. Chang. 6(9): 856-860.
In: Nature Climate Change. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 1758-678X, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Screen, J.A.
  • Francis, J.A.

    The pace of Arctic warming is about double that at lower latitudes-a robust phenomenon known as Arctic amplification(1). Many diverse climate processes and feedbacks cause Arctic amplification(2-7), including positive feedbacks associated with diminished sea ice(6,7). However, the precise contribution of sea-ice loss to Arctic amplification remains uncertain(7,8). Through analyses of both observations and model simulations, we show that the contribution of sea-ice loss to wintertime Arctic amplification seems to be dependent on the phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). Our results suggest that, for the same pattern and amount of sea-ice loss, consequent Arctic warming is larger during the negative PDO phase relative to the positive phase, leading to larger reductions in the poleward gradient of tropospheric thickness and to more pronounced reductions in the upper-level westerlies. Given the oscillatory nature of the PDO, this relationship has the potential to increase skill in decadal-scale predictability of the Arctic and sub-Arctic climate. Our results indicate that Arctic warming in response to the ongoing long-term sea-ice decline(9,10) is greater (reduced) during periods of the negative (positive) PDO phase. We speculate that the observed recent shift to the positive PDO phase, if maintained and all other factors being equal, could act to temporarily reduce the pace of wintertime Arctic warming in the near future.

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