National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2012

Future climate of the Bering and Chukchi seas projected by global climate models

Wang, M., J.E. Overland, and P. Stabeno

Deep-Sea Res. II, 65–70, 46–57, doi: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2012.02.022 (2012)

Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCMs) are a major tool used by scientists to study the complex interaction of processes that control climate and climate change. Projections from these models for the 21st century are the basis for the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Here, we use the set of climate models developed for the IPCC AR4 to provide a regional assessment of sea ice extent, sea surface temperature (SST), and surface air temperature (SAT) critical to future marine ecosystems in the Bering Sea and the Chukchi Sea. To reduce uncertainties associated with the model projections, a two-step model culling technique is applied based on comparison to 20th century observations. For the Chukchi Sea, data and model projections show major September sea ice extent reduction compared to the 20th century beginning now, with nearly sea ice free conditions before mid-century. Earlier sea ice loss continues throughout fall with major loss in December before the end of the 21st century. By 2050, for the eastern Bering Sea, spring sea ice extent (average of March to May) would be 58% of its recent values (1980–1999 mean). December will become increasingly sea ice free over the next 40 years. The Bering Sea will continue to show major interannual variability in sea ice extent and SST. The majority of models had no systematic bias in their 20th century simulated regional SAT, an indication that the models may provide considerable credibility for the Bering and the Chukchi Sea ecosystem projections. Largest air temperature increases are in fall (November to December) for both the Chukchi and the Bering Sea, with increases by 2050 of 3°C for the Bering Sea and increases in excess of 5°C for the Chukchi Sea.

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