Projected Changes to Wintertime Air‐Sea Turbulent Heat Fluxes Over the Subpolar North Atlantic Ocean

In wintertime over the subpolar North Atlantic Ocean (SPNA), the strongest surface sensible and latent heat fluxes typically occur just downstream of the sea-ice edge. The recent retreat in Arctic wintertime sea ice is changing the distribution of these turbulent heat fluxes, with consequences for the formation of the dense waters that feed into the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Projections of turbulent heat flux over the SPNA are investigated using output from the HadGEM3-GC3.1 climate model, produced as part of the sixth phase of the Coupled Model Inter-Comparison Project. Comparison of two model resolutions (MM: 60 km atmosphere—1/4° ocean and HH: 25 km–1/12°) shows that the HH configuration more accurately simulates historic sea ice and turbulent heat flux distributions. The MM configuration tends to produce too much sea ice in the SPNA, affecting the turbulent heat flux distribution; however, it displays improved performance during winters with less sea ice, increasing confidence in future projections when less sea ice is predicted. Future projections are presented for low (SSP1-2.6) and high (SSP5-8.5) emissions pathways. The simulations agree in predicting that, with climate change, the SPNA will see reductions in wintertime sea ice and air-sea turbulent fluxes later in the 21st century, particularly in the Labrador and Irminger Seas and the interior of the Nordic Seas, and a notable reduction in their decadal variability. These effects are more severe under the SSP5-8.5 pathway. The implications for SPNA ocean circulation are discussed.


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Authors: Barrell, Christopher, Renfrew, Ian A., King, John C. ORCIDORCID record for John C. King, Abel, Steven J., Elvidge, Andrew D.

On this site: John King
20 April, 2023
Earth's Future / 11
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