National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2010

Climate projections for selected large marine ecosystems

Wang, M., J.E. Overland, and N.A. Bond

J. Mar. Syst., 79(3–4), 258–266, doi: 10.1016/j.jmarsys.2008.11.028 (2010)

In preparation for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) modeling centers from around the world carried out sets of global climate simulations under various emission scenarios with a total of 23 coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation models. We evaluated the models' 20th century hindcasts of selected variables relevant to several large marine ecosystems and examined 21st century projections by a subset of these models under the A1B (middle range) emission scenario. In general we find that a subset (about half) of the models are able to simulate large-scale aspects of the historical observations reasonably well, which provides some confidence in their application for projections of ocean conditions into the future. Over the North Pacific by the mid-21st century, the warming due to the trend in wintertime sea surface temperature (SST) will be 1°–1.5 °C, which is as large as the amplitude of the major mode of variability, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). For areas northwest of the Hawaiian Islands, these models projected a steady increase of 1.2 °C in summer SST over the period from 2000 to 2050. For the Bering and Barents seas, a subset of models selected on the basis of their ability to simulate sea–ice area in late 20th century yield an average decrease in sea–ice coverage of 43% and 36%, respectively, by the decade centered on 2050 with a reasonable degree of consistency. On the other hand, model simulations of coastal upwelling for the California, Canary and Humboldt Currents, and of bottom temperatures in the Barents Sea, feature a relatively large degree of uncertainty. These results illustrate that 21st century projections for marine ecosystems in certain regions using present-generation climate models require additional analysis.

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