National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2024

Internal variability increased Arctic amplification during 1980-2022

Sweeney, A.J., Q. Fu, S. Po-Chedley, H. Wang, and M. Wang

Geophys. Res. Lett., 50, e2023GL106060, doi: 10.1029/2023GL106060, View open access article online at AGU/Wiley (external link) (2023)

Since 1980, the Arctic surface has warmed four times faster than the global mean. Enhanced Arctic warming relative to the global average warming is referred to as Arctic Amplification (AA). While AA is a robust feature in climate change simulations, models rarely reproduce the observed magnitude of AA, leading to concerns that models may not accurately capture the response of the Arctic to greenhouse gas emissions. Here, we use CMIP6 data to train a machine learning algorithm to quantify the influence of internal variability in surface air temperature trends over both the Arctic and global domains. Application of this machine learning algorithm to observations reveals that internal variability increases the Arctic warming but slows global warming in recent decades, inflating AA since 1980 by 38% relative to the externally forced AA. Accounting for the role of internal variability reconciles the discrepancy between simulated and observed AA.

Plain Language Summary. The Arctic has been warming four times as quickly as the global mean since 1980. This so-called Arctic Amplification (AA) has unprecedented impacts on Arctic environments and livelihoods. AA is robustly simulated by climate models, but simulations rarely reproduce the observed levels of AA for 1980–2022. This may be due to a model misrepresentation of the Arctic's sensitivity to increasing greenhouse gases. Another possibility is that the large, observed value of AA is inflated by natural fluctuations in the climate system. Here, we use machine learning to quantify the contribution of natural fluctuations to observed AA. We show that natural fluctuations have inflated AA by 38%, and thus reconcile model-observation differences and suggest that the observed large AA over 1980 to present would not persist into the future.

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