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Factors controlling the bifurcation structure of sea ice retreat

Eisenman, Ian (2012) Factors controlling the bifurcation structure of sea ice retreat. Journal of Geophysical Research D, 117 . Art. No. D01111. ISSN 0148-0227. doi:10.1029/2011JD016164.

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The contrast in surface albedo between sea ice and open ocean suggests the possibility of an unstable climate state flanked by two separate stable climate states. Previous studies using idealized single-column models and comprehensive climate models have considered the possibility of abrupt thresholds during sea ice retreat associated with such multiple states, and they have produced a wide range of results. When the climate is warmed such that the summer minimum Arctic sea ice cover reaches zero, some models smoothly transition to seasonally ice-free conditions, others discontinuously transition to seasonally ice-free conditions, and others discontinuously transition to annually ice-free conditions. Among the models that simulate a continuous transition to seasonally ice-free conditions, further warming causes some to smoothly lose the remaining wintertime-only sea ice cover and others to discontinuously lose it. Here, we use a toy model representing the essential physics of thermodynamic sea ice in a single column to investigate the factors controlling which of these scenarios occurs. All of the scenarios are shown to be possible in the toy model when the parameters are varied, and physical mechanisms giving rise to each scenario are investigated. We find that parameter shifts that make ice thicker or open ocean warmer under a given climate forcing make models less prone to stable seasonally ice-free conditions and more prone to bistability and hence bifurcations. The results are used to interpret differences in simulated sea ice stability in comprehensive climate models.

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Additional Information: © 2012 by the American Geophysical Union. Received 27 April 2011; revised 25 October 2011; accepted 28 October 2011; published 14 January 2012. I thank J. S. Wettlaufer, K. C. Armour, and D. S. Abbot for helpful comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by a NOAA Climate and Global Change Postdoctoral Fellowship administered by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, the Davidow Discovery Fund, and NSF grant ARC-1107795.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NOAA Climate and Global Change Postdoctoral FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Davidow Discovery FundUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:bifurcations; climate change; sea ice; tipping points
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20120215-091714864
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Official Citation:Eisenman, I. (2012), Factors controlling the bifurcation structure of sea ice retreat, J. Geophys. Res., 117, D01111, doi:10.1029/2011JD016164
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:29296
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:21 Mar 2012 16:50
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 17:05

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