Articles | Volume 7, issue 2
Research article
 | Highlight paper
26 Mar 2013
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 26 Mar 2013

Mechanisms causing reduced Arctic sea ice loss in a coupled climate model

A. E. West, A. B. Keen, and H. T. Hewitt

Abstract. The fully coupled climate model HadGEM1 produces one of the most accurate simulations of the historical record of Arctic sea ice seen in the IPCC AR4 multi-model ensemble. In this study, we examine projections of sea ice decline out to 2030, produced by two ensembles of HadGEM1 with natural and anthropogenic forcings included. These ensembles project a significant slowing of the rate of ice loss to occur after 2010, with some integrations even simulating a small increase in ice area. We use an energy budget of the Arctic to examine the causes of this slowdown. A negative feedback effect by which rapid reductions in ice thickness north of Greenland reduce ice export is found to play a major role. A slight reduction in ocean-to-ice heat flux in the relevant period, caused by changes in the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) and subpolar gyre in some integrations, as well as freshening of the mixed layer driven by causes other than ice melt, is also found to play a part. Finally, we assess the likelihood of a slowdown occurring in the real world due to these causes.