Improved Arctic sea ice thickness projections using bias-corrected CMIP5 simulations
Abstract. Projections of Arctic sea ice thickness (SIT) have the potential to inform stakeholders about accessibility to the region, but are currently rather uncertain. The latest suite of CMIP5 global climate models (GCMs) produce a wide range of simulated SIT in the historical period (1979–2014) and exhibit various biases when compared with the Pan-Arctic Ice–Ocean Modelling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) sea ice reanalysis. We present a new method to constrain such GCM simulations of SIT via a statistical bias correction technique. The bias correction successfully constrains the spatial SIT distribution and temporal variability in the CMIP5 projections whilst retaining the climatic fluctuations from individual ensemble members. The bias correction acts to reduce the spread in projections of SIT and reveals the significant contributions of climate internal variability in the first half of the century and of scenario uncertainty from the mid-century onwards. The projected date of ice-free conditions in the Arctic under the RCP8.5 high emission scenario occurs in the 2050s, which is a decade earlier than without the bias correction, with potentially significant implications for stakeholders in the Arctic such as the shipping industry. The bias correction methodology developed could be similarly applied to other variables to reduce spread in climate projections more generally.