Using records from submarine, aircraft and satellites to evaluate climate model simulations of Arctic sea ice thickness
- 1National Snow and Ice Data Center, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
- 2Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
Abstract. Arctic sea ice thickness distributions from models participating in the World Climate Research Programme Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) are evaluated against observations from submarines, aircraft and satellites. While it is encouraging that the mean thickness distributions from the models are in general agreement with observations, the spatial patterns of sea ice thickness are poorly represented in most models. The poor spatial representation of thickness patterns is associated with a failure of models to represent details of the mean atmospheric circulation pattern that governs the transport and spatial distribution of sea ice. The climate models as a whole also tend to underestimate the rate of ice volume loss from 1979 to 2013, though the multimodel ensemble mean trend remains within the uncertainty of that from the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System. Although large uncertainties in observational products complicate model evaluations, these results raise concerns regarding the ability of CMIP5 models to realistically represent the processes driving the decline of Arctic sea ice and to project the timing of when a seasonally ice-free Arctic may become a reality.