National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2007

Future regional Arctic Sea ice declines

Overland, J.E., and M. Wang

Geophys. Res. Lett., 34(17), L17705, doi: 10.1029/2007GL030808 (2007)

Because animals and humans respond to seasonally and regionally varying climates, it is instructive to assess how much confidence we can have in regional projections of sea ice from the 20 models provided through the International Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) process (IPCC 2007). Based on the selection of a subset models that closely simulate observed regional ice concentrations for 1979–1999, we find considerable evidence for loss of sea ice area of greater than 40% by 2050 in summer for the marginal seas of the Arctic basin. This conclusion is supported by consistency in the selection of the same models across different regions, and the importance of thinning ice and increased open water at mid-century to the rate of ice loss. With less confidence, we find that the Bering, Okhotsk and Barents Seas have a similar 40% loss of sea ice area by 2050 in winter. Baffin Bay/Labrador shows little change compared to current conditions. These seasonal ice zones have large interannual/ decadal variability in addition to trends. Large model-tomodel differences were seen for the Kara/Laptev Seas and East Greenland. With a careful evaluation process, AR4 sea ice projections have some utility for use in assessing potential impacts over large Arctic subregions for a 2020–2050 time horizon.

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