Climate Change and...

Annotated Bibliography

Global Climate

Arctic Oscillation

R. Aanes, B.-E. Sæther, F. M. Smith, E. J. Cooper, P. A. Wookey, N. A. Øritsland (2002). The Arctic Oscillation predicts effects of climate change in two trophic levels in a high-arctic ecosystem. Ecology Letters 5 (3): 445-453

ABSTRACT: During recent decades there has been a change in the circulation of atmospheric pressure throughout the Northern Hemisphere. These variations are expressed in the recently described Arctic Oscillation (AO), which has shown an upward trend (associated with winter warming in the eastern Arctic) during the last three decades. We analysed a 12-year time series on growth of Cassiope tetragona (Lapland Cassiope) and a 21-year time series on abundance of a Svalbard reindeer population. High values of the AO index were associated with reduced plant growth and reindeer population growth rate. The North Atlantic Oscillation index was not able to explain a significant proportion of the variance in either plant growth or reindeer population fluctuations. Thus, the AO index may be a better predictor for ecosystem effects of climate change in certain high-arctic areas compared to the NAO index.

M. H. P. Ambaum, B. J. Hoskins, D. B. Stephenson (2001). Arctic oscillation or North Atlantic Oscillation?. Journal of Climate 14 (16): 3495-3507

ABSTRACT: The definition and interpretation of the Arctic oscillation (AO) are examined and compared with those of the North Atlantic oscillation (NAO). It is shown that the NAO reflects the correlations between the surface pressure variability at its centers of action, whereas this is not the case for the AO. The NAO pattern can be identified in a physically consistent way in principal component analysis applied to various fields in the Euro-Atlantic region. A similar identification is found in the Pacific region for the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern, but no such identification is found here for the AO. The AO does reflect the tendency for the zonal winds at 35° and 55°N to anticorrelate in both the Atlantic and Pacific regions associated with the NAO and PNA. Because climatological features in the two ocean basins are at different latitudes, the zonally symmetric nature of the AO does not mean that it represents a simple modulation of the circumpolar flow. An increase in the AO or NAO implies strong, separated tropospheric jets in the Atlantic but a weakened Pacific jet. The PNA has strong related variability in the Pacific jet exit, but elsewhere the zonal wind is similar to that related to the NAO. The NAO-related zonal winds link strongly through to the stratosphere in the Atlantic sector. The PNA-related winds do so in the Pacific, but to a lesser extent. The results suggest that the NAO paradigm may be more physically relevant and robust for Northern Hemisphere variability than is the AO paradigm. However, this does not disqualify many of the physical mechanisms associated with annular modes for explaining the existence of the NAO.

J. C. Fyfe, G. J. Boer, G. M. Flato (1999). The Arctic and Antarctic oscillations and their projected changes under global warming. Geophysical Research Letters 26 (11): 1601-1604

ABSTRACT: The Arctic Oscillation (AO) and the Antarctic Oscillation (AAO) are the leading modes of high-latitude variability in each hemisphere as characterized by the first EOF of mean sea‐level pressure. Observations suggest a recent positive trend in the AO and it is speculated that this may be related to global warming. The CCCma coupled general circulation model control simulation exhibits a robust and realistic AO and AAO. Climate change simulations for the period 1900–2100, with forcing due to greenhouse gases and aerosols, exhibit positive trends in both the AO and the AAO. The model simulates essentially unchanged AO/AAO variations superimposed on a forced climate change pattern. The results do not suggest that a simulated trend in the AO/AAO necessarily depends on stratospheric involvement nor that forced climate change will be expressed as a change in the occurence of one phase of the AO/AAO over another. This pattern of climate change projects exclusively on the AAO pattern in the southern hemisphere but not in the northern hemisphere where other EOFs are involved. The extent to which this forced climate change pattern and the unforced modes of variation are determined by the same mechanisms and feedbacks remains an open question.

Jahn, A., B. Tremblay, L. A. Mysak, R. Newton (2009). Effect of the large-scale atmospheric circulation on the variability of the Arctic Ocean freshwater export. Climate Dynamics Online First

ABSTRACT: Freshwater (FW) leaves the Arctic Ocean through sea-ice export and the outflow of low-salinity upper ocean water. Whereas the variability of the sea-ice export is known to be mainly caused by changes in the local wind and the thickness of the exported sea ice, the mechanisms that regulate the variability of the liquid FW export are still under investigation. To better understand these mechanisms, we present an analysis of the variability of the liquid FW export from the Arctic Ocean for the period 1950–2007, using a simulation from an energy and mass conserving global ocean–sea ice model, coupled to an Energy Moisture Balance Model of the atmosphere, and forced with daily winds from the NCEP reanalysis. Our results show that the simulated liquid FW exports through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA) and the Fram Strait lag changes in the large-scale atmospheric circulation over the Arctic by 1 and 6 years, respectively. The variability of the liquid FW exports is caused by changes in the cyclonicity of the atmospheric forcing, which cause a FW redistribution in the Arctic through changes in Ekman transport in the Beaufort Gyre. This in turn causes changes in the sea surface height (SSH) and salinity upstream of the CAA and Fram Strait, which affect the velocity and salinity of the outflow. The SSH changes induced by the large-scale atmospheric circulation are found to explain a large part of the variance of the liquid FW export, while the local wind plays a much smaller role. We also show that during periods of increased liquid FW export from the Arctic, the strength of the simulated Atlantic meridional overturning circulation is reduced and the ocean heat transport into the Arctic is increased. These results are particularly relevant in the context of global warming, as climate simulations predict an increase in the liquid FW export from the Arctic during the twenty-first century.

W. Maslowski, B. Newton, P. Schlosser, A. Semtner, D. Martinson (2000). Modeling recent climate variability in the Arctic Ocean. Geophysical Research Letters 27 (22): 3743-3746

ABSTRACT: Dramatic changes in the circulation of sea ice and the upper layers of the Arctic Ocean have been reported during the last decade. Similar variability is modeled using a regional, coupled ice-ocean model. Realistic atmospheric forcing fields for 1979–93 are the only interannual signal prescribed in the model. Our results show large-scale changes in sea ice and oceanic conditions when comparing results for the late 1970s/early 1980s and the 1990s. We hypothesize that these changes are in response to even larger scale atmospheric variability in the Northern Hemisphere that can be defined as either the Arctic Oscillation or the North Atlantic Oscillation. Agreement between the direction and scale of change in the model and observations, in the absence of interannual forcing from the global ocean thermohaline circulation, suggests that the atmospheric variability by itself is sufficient to produce basin-scale changes in the Arctic Ocean and sea ice system.

R. E. Moritz, C. M. Bitz, E. J. Steig (2002). Dynamics of recent climate change in the Arctic. Science 297 (5586): 1497-1502

ABSTRACT: The pattern of recent surface warming observed in the Arctic exhibits both polar amplification and a strong relation with trends in the Arctic Oscillation mode of atmospheric circulation. Paleoclimate analyses indicate that Arctic surface temperatures were higher during the 20th century than during the preceding few centuries and that polar amplification is a common feature of the past. Paleoclimate evidence for Holocene variations in the Arctic Oscillation is mixed. Current understanding of physical mechanisms controlling atmospheric dynamics suggests that anthropogenic influences could have forced the recent trend in the Arctic Oscillation, but simulations with global climate models do not agree. In most simulations, the trend in the Arctic Oscillation is much weaker than observed. In addition, the simulated warming tends to be largest in autumn over the Arctic Ocean, whereas observed warming appears to be largest in winter and spring over the continents.

J. E. Overland, M. Wang (2005). The Arctic climate paradox: The recent decrease of the Arctic Oscillation. Geophysical Research Letters 32 (L06701): doi:10.1029/2004GL021752

ABSTRACT: A current paradox is that many physical and biological indicators of Arctic change—summer sea-ice extent, spring surface air temperature and cloud cover, and shifts in vegetation and other ecosystems—show nearly linear trends over the previous two and a half decades, while the Arctic Oscillation, a representative atmospheric circulation index often associated with Arctic change, has had a different, more episodic behavior, with a near-neutral or negative phase for 6 of the last 9 years (1996–2004) following a positive phase (1989–1995). Stratospheric temperature anomalies over the Arctic, which serve as an index of the strength of the polar vortex, also show this episodic character. Model projections of Arctic temperature for 2010–2029 show model-to-model and region-to-region differences suggesting large variability in the future response of atmospheric circulation to external forcing. Thus internal processes in the western Arctic may have a larger role in shaping the present persistence of Arctic change than has been previously recognized.

I. G. Rigor, J. M. Wallace, R. L. Colony (2002). Response of sea ice to the Arctic Oscillation. Journal of Climate 15 (18): 2648-2663

ABSTRACT: Data collected by the International Arctic Buoy Programme from 1979 to 1998 are analyzed to obtain statistics of sea level pressure (SLP) and sea ice motion (SIM). The annual and seasonal mean fields agree with those obtained in previous studies of Arctic climatology. The data show a 3-hPa decrease in decadal mean SLP over the central Arctic Ocean between 1979–88 and 1989–98. This decrease in SLP drives a cyclonic trend in SIM, which resembles the structure of the Arctic Oscillation (AO).

Regression maps of SIM during the wintertime (January–March) AO index show 1) an increase in ice advection away from the coast of the East Siberian and Laptev Seas, which should have the effect of producing more new thin ice in the coastal flaw leads; 2) a decrease in ice advection from the western Arctic into the eastern Arctic; and 3) a slight increase in ice advection out of the Arctic through Fram Strait. Taken together, these changes suggest that at least part of the thinning of sea ice recently observed over the Arctic Ocean can be attributed to the trend in the AO toward the high-index polarity.

Rigor et al. showed that year-to-year variations in the wintertime AO imprint a distinctive signature on surface air temperature (SAT) anomalies over the Arctic, which is reflected in the spatial pattern of temperature change from the 1980s to the 1990s. Here it is shown that the memory of the wintertime AO persists through most of the subsequent year: spring and autumn SAT and summertime sea ice concentration are all strongly correlated with the AO index for the previous winter. It is hypothesized that these delayed responses reflect the dynamical influence of the AO on the thickness of the wintertime sea ice, whose persistent “footprint” is reflected in the heat fluxes during the subsequent spring, in the extent of open water during the subsequent summer, and the heat liberated in the freezing of the open water during the subsequent autumn.

M. C. Serreze, J. A. Francis (2006). The Arctic amplification debate. Climatic Change 76 (3-4): 241-264

ABSTRACT: Rises in surface air temperature (SAT) in response to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) are expected to be amplified in northern high latitudes, with warming most pronounced over the Arctic Ocean owing to the loss of sea ice. Observations document recent warming, but an enhanced Arctic Ocean signal is not readily evident. This disparity, combined with varying model projections of SAT change, and large variability in observed SAT over the 20th century, may lead one to question the concept of Arctic amplification. Disparity is greatly reduced, however, if one compares observed trajectories to near-future simulations (2010–2029), rather than to the doubled-CO2 or late 21st century conditions that are typically cited. These near-future simulations document a preconditioning phase of Arctic amplification, characterized by the initial retreat and thinning of sea ice, with imprints of low-frequency variability. Observations show these same basic features, but with SATs over the Arctic Ocean still largely constrained by the insulating effects of the ice cover and thermal inertia of the upper ocean. Given the general consistency with model projections, we are likely near the threshold when absorption of solar radiation during summer limits ice growth the following autumn and winter, initiating a feedback leading to a substantial increase in Arctic Ocean SATs.

M. C. Serreze, J. A. Maslanik, T. A. Scambos, F. Fetterer, J. Stroeve, K. Knowles, C. Fowler, S. Drobot, R. G. Barry, T. M. Haran (2003). A record minimum arctic sea ice extent and area in 2002. Geophysical Research Letters 30 (3): doi:10.1029/2002GL016406

ABSTRACT: Arctic sea ice extent and area in September 2002 reached their lowest levels recorded since 1978. These conditions likely resulted from (1) anomalous warm southerly winds in spring, advecting ice poleward from the Siberian coast (2) persistent low pressure and high temperatures over the Arctic Ocean in summer, promoting ice divergence and rapid melt.

David W. J. Thompson, John M. Wallace (1998). The Arctic oscillation signature in the wintertime geopotential height and temperature fields. Geophysical Research Letters 25 (9): 1297-1300

ABSTRACT: The leading empirical orthogonal function of the wintertime sea-level pressure field is more strongly coupled to surface air temperature fluctuations over the Eurasian continent than the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). It resembles the NAO in many respects; but its primary center of action covers more of the Arctic, giving it a more zonally symmetric appearance. Coupled to strong fluctuations at the 50-hPa level on the intraseasonal, interannual, and interdecadal time scales, this “Arctic Oscillation” (AO) can be interpreted as the surface signature of modulations in the strength of the polar vortex aloft. It is proposed that the zonally asymmetric surface air temperature and mid-tropospheric circulation anomalies observed in association with the AO may be secondary baroclinic features induced by the land-sea contrasts. The same modal structure is mirrored in the pronounced trends in winter and springtime surface air temperature, sea-level pressure, and 50-hPa height over the past 30 years: parts of Eurasia have warmed by as much as several K, sea-level pressure over parts of the Arctic has fallen by 4 hPa, and the core of the lower stratospheric polar vortex has cooled by several K. These trends can be interpreted as the development of a systematic bias in one of the atmosphere's dominant, naturally occurring modes of variability.

D. W. J. Thompson, J. M. Wallace, G. C. Hegerl (2000). Annular modes in the extratropical circulation. Part II: trends. Journal of Climate 13 (5): 1018-1036

ABSTRACT: The authors exploit the remarkable similarity between recent climate trends and the structure of the “annular modes” in the month-to-month variability (as described in a companion paper) to partition the trends into components linearly congruent with and linearly independent of the annular modes.

The index of the Northern Hemisphere (NH) annular mode, referred to as the Arctic Oscillation (AO), has exhibited a trend toward the high index polarity over the past few decades. The largest and most significant trends are observed during the “active season” for stratospheric planetary wave–mean flow interaction, January–March (JFM), when fluctuations in the AO amplify with height into the lower stratosphere. For the periods of record considered, virtually all of the JFM geopotential height falls over the polar cap region and the strengthening of the subpolar westerlies from the surface to the lower stratosphere, ~50% of the JFM warming over the Eurasian continent, ~30% of the JFM warming over the NH as a whole, ~40% of the JFM stratospheric cooling over the polar cap region, and ~40% of the March total column ozone losses poleward of 40°N are linearly congruent with month-to-month variations in the AO index. Summertime sea level pressure falls over the Arctic basin are suggestive of a year-round drift toward the positive polarity of the AO, but the evidence is less conclusive. Owing to the photochemical memory inherent in the ozone distribution, roughly half the ozone depletion during the NH summer months is linearly dependent on AO-related ozone losses incurred during the previous active season.

Lower-tropospheric geopotential height falls over the Antarctic polar cap region are indicative of a drift toward the high index polarity of the Southern Hemisphere (SH) annular mode with no apparent seasonality. In contrast, the trend toward a cooling and strengthening of the SH stratospheric polar vortex peaks sharply during the stratosphere’s relatively short active season centered in November. The most pronounced SH ozone losses have occurred in September–October, one or two months prior to this active season. In both hemispheres, positive feedbacks involving ozone destruction, cooling, and a weakening of the wave-driven meridional circulation may be contributing to a delayed breakdown of the polar vortex and enhanced ozone losses during spring.

J. J. Wettstein, L. O. Mearns (2002). The influence of the North Atlantic–Arctic Oscillation on mean, variance, and extremes of temperature in the northeastern United States and Canada. Journal of Climate 15 (24): 3586-3600

ABSTRACT: An analysis of detailed relationships between the North Atlantic Oscillation–Arctic Oscillation (NAO–AO) and local temperature response throughout the northeastern United States and neighboring areas of Canada is presented. In particular, the study focuses on how contrasts in the mean and daily variance, based on AO phase, are associated with contrasts in the frequency and intensity of extreme temperature events in both winter and spring. In this region, notable contrasts in mean temperatures in winter and daily variance in spring, which influence the pattern of extremes, are associated with phases of the NAO–AO. Warmer temperatures in New England and cooler temperatures in Quebec, Canada, result during winter with increases in the NAO–AO index. The mean temperature response is weaker in spring, but the response of daily variance of temperature is stronger; variance increases with the NAO–AO index. Relationships between these effects help explain significant increases in maximum temperature extremes during winter in New England and in minimum temperature extremes during spring in Quebec for high NAO–AO index years. Diurnal temperature range tends to be larger in AO-positive winters and springs throughout the region. This study helps put other work on the trends in regional extreme events into the context of large-scale climate variability.

Wood, K. R. (2009). Early 20th century Arctic warming in retrospect. International Journal of Climatology Online in Advance of Print

ABSTRACT: The major early 20th century climatic fluctuation (1920-1940) has been the subject of scientific enquiry from the time it was detected in the 1920s. The papers of scientists who studied the event first-hand have faded into obscurity but their insights are relevant today. We review this event through a rediscovery of early research and new assessments of the instrumental record. Much of the inter-annual to decadal scale variability in surface air temperature (SAT) anomaly patterns and related ecosystem effects in the Arctic and elsewhere can be attributed to the superposition of leading modes of variability in the atmospheric circulation. Meridional circulation patterns were an important factor in the high latitudes of the North Atlantic during the early climatic fluctuation. Sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies that appeared during this period were congruent with low-frequency variability in the climate system but were themselves most likely the result of anomalous forcing by the atmosphere. The high-resolution data necessary to verify this hypothesis are lacking, but the consistency of multiple lines of evidence provides strong support. Our findings indicate that early climatic fluctuation is best interpreted as a large but random climate excursion imposed on top of the steadily rising global mean temperature associated with anthropogenic forcing.

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