National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2020

What do global climate models tell us about future Arctic sea ice coverage changes?

Peng, G., J.L. Matthews, M. Wang, R. Vose, and L. Sun

Climate, 8(1), 15, doi: 10.3390/cli8010015, View online (2020)

The prospect of an ice-free Arctic in our near future due to the rapid and accelerated Arctic sea ice decline has brought about the urgent need for reliable projections of the first ice-free Arctic summer year (FIASY). Together with up-to-date observations and characterizations of Arctic ice state, they are essential to business strategic planning, climate adaptation, and risk mitigation. In this study, the monthly Arctic sea ice extents from 12 global climate models are utilized to obtain projected FIASYs and their dependency on different emission scenarios, as well as to examine the nature of the ice retreat projections. The average value of model-projected FIASYs is 2054/2042, with a spread of 74/42 years for the medium/high emission scenarios, respectively. The earliest FIASY is projected to occur in year 2023, which may not be realistic, for both scenarios. The sensitivity of individual climate models to scenarios in projecting FIASYs is very model-dependent. The nature of model-projected Arctic sea ice coverage changes is shown to be primarily linear. FIASY values predicted by six commonly used statistical models that were curve-fitted with the first 30 years of climate projections (2006–2035), on other hand, show a preferred range of 2030–2040, with a distinct peak at 2034 for both scenarios, which is more comparable with those from previous studies.

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