Sources of uncertainty in projections of 21st century westerly wind changes over the Amundsen Sea, West Antarctica, in CMIP5 climate models

The influence of changes in winds over the Amundsen Sea has been shown to be a potentially key mechanism in explaining rapid loss of ice from major glaciers in West Antarctica, which is having a significant impact on global sea level. Here, Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) climate model data are used to assess twenty-first century projections in westerly winds over the Amundsen Sea (U AS ). The importance of model uncertainty and internal climate variability in RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 scenario projections are quantified and potential sources of model uncertainty are considered. For the decade 2090–2099 the CMIP5 models show an ensemble mean twenty-first century response in annual mean U AS of 0.3 and 0.7 m s−1 following the RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 scenarios respectively. However, as a consequence of large internal climate variability over the Amundsen Sea, it takes until around 2030 (2065) for the RCP8.5 response to exceed one (two) standard deviation(s) of decadal internal variability. In all scenarios and seasons the model uncertainty is large. However the present-day climatological zonal wind bias over the whole South Pacific, which is important for tropical teleconnections, is strongly related to inter-model differences in projected change in U AS (more skilful models show larger U AS increases). This relationship is significant in winter (r = −0.56) and spring (r = −0.65), when the influence of the tropics on the Amundsen Sea region is known to be important. Horizontal grid spacing and present day sea ice extent are not significant sources of inter-model spread.


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Authors: Bracegirdle, Thomas J., Turner, John, Hosking, J. Scott, Phillips, Tony

On this site: Scott Hosking, John Turner, Thomas Bracegirdle, Tony Phillips
1 October, 2014
Climate Dynamics / 43
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