Publications

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2016
Sun, S, Eisenman I, Stewart AL.  2016.  The influence of Southern Ocean surface buoyancy forcing on glacial-interglacial changes in the global deep ocean stratification. Geophysical Research Letters. 43:8124-8132.   10.1002/2016gl070058   AbstractWebsite

Previous studies have suggested that the global ocean density stratification below approximate to 3000m is approximately set by its direct connection to the Southern Ocean surface density, which in turn is constrained by the atmosphere. Here the role of Southern Ocean surface forcing in glacial-interglacial stratification changes is investigated using a comprehensive climate model and an idealized conceptual model. Southern Ocean surface forcing is found to control the global deep ocean stratification up to approximate to 2000m, which is much shallower than previously thought and contrary to the expectation that the North Atlantic surface forcing should strongly influence the ocean at intermediate depths. We show that this is due to the approximately fixed surface freshwater fluxes, rather than a fixed surface density distribution in the Southern Ocean as was previously assumed. These results suggest that Southern Ocean surface freshwater forcing controls glacial-interglacial stratification changes in much of the deep ocean.

Rosenblum, E, Eisenman I.  2016.  Faster Arctic aea ice retreat in CMIP5 than in CMIP3 due to volcanoes. Journal of Climate. 29:9179-9188.   10.1175/jcli-d-16-0391.1   AbstractWebsite

The downward trend in Arctic sea ice extent is one of the most dramatic signals of climate change during recent decades. Comprehensive climate models have struggled to reproduce this trend, typically simulating a slower rate of sea ice retreat than has been observed. However, this bias has been widely noted to have decreased in models participating in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) compared with the previous generation of models (CMIP3). Here simulations are examined from both CMIP3 and CMIP5. It is found that simulated historical sea ice trends are influenced by volcanic forcing, which was included in all of the CMIP5 models but in only about half of the CMIP3 models. The volcanic forcing causes temporary simulated cooling in the 1980s and 1990s, which contributes to raising the simulated 1979-2013 global-mean surface temperature trends to values substantially larger than observed. It is shown that this warming bias is accompanied by an enhanced rate of Arctic sea ice retreat and hence a simulated sea ice trend that is closer to the observed value, which is consistent with previous findings of an approximately linear relationship between sea ice extent and global-mean surface temperature. Both generations of climate models are found to simulate Arctic sea ice that is substantially less sensitive to global warming than has been observed. The results imply that much of the difference in Arctic sea ice trends between CMIP3 and CMIP5 occurred because of the inclusion of volcanic forcing, rather than improved sea ice physics or model resolution.

2017
Wagner, TJW, Eisenman I.  2017.  How climate model biases skew the distribution of iceberg meltwater. Geophysical Research Letters.   10.1002/2016GL071645   Abstract

The discharge of icebergs into the polar oceans is expected to increase over the coming century, which raises the importance of accurate representations of icebergs in global climate models (GCMs) used for future projections. Here we analyze the prospects for interactive icebergs in GCMs by forcing an iceberg drift and decay model with circulation and temperature fields from (i) state-of-the-art GCM output and (ii) an observational state estimate. The spread of meltwater is found to be smaller for the GCM than for the observational state estimate, despite a substantial high wind bias in the GCM—a bias that is similar to most current GCMs. We argue that this large-scale reduction in the spread of meltwater occurs primarily due to localized differences in ocean currents, which may be related to the coarseness of the horizontal resolution in the GCM. The high wind bias in the GCM is shown to have relatively little impact on the meltwater distribution, despite Arctic iceberg drift typically being dominated by the wind forcing. We find that this is due to compensating effects between faster drift under stronger winds and larger wind-driven wave erosion. These results may have implications for future changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation simulated with iceberg-enabled GCMs.

Strong, C, Foster D, Cherkaev E, Eisenman I, Golden KM.  2017.  On the definition of marginal ice zone width. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology. 34:1565-1584.   10.1175/jtech-d-16-0171.1   AbstractWebsite

Sea ice features a dense inner pack ice zone surrounded by a marginal ice zone (MIZ) in which the sea ice properties are modified by interaction with the ice-free open ocean. The width of the MIZ is a fundamental length scale for polar physical and biological dynamics. Several different criteria for establishing MIZ boundaries have emerged in the literature-wave penetration, floe size, sea ice concentration, etc.-and a variety of definitions for the width between the MIZ boundaries have been published. Here, three desirable mathematical properties for defining MIZ width are proposed: invariance with respect to translation and rotation on the sphere; uniqueness at every point in the MIZ; and generality, including nonconvex shapes. The previously published streamline definition is shown to satisfy all three properties, where width is defined as the arc length of a streamline through the solution to Laplaces's equation within the MIZ boundaries, while other published definitions each satisfy only one of the desired properties. When defining MIZ spatial average width from streamline results, the rationale for averaging with respect to distance along both MIZ boundaries was left implicit in prior studies. Here it is made rigorous by developing and applying the mathematics of an analytically tractable idealization of MIZ geometry-the eccentric annulus. Finally, satellite-retrieved Arctic sea ice concentrations are used to investigate how well streamline-based MIZ spatial average width is approximated by alternative definitions that lack desirable mathematical properties or local width values but offer computational efficiency.

Rosenblum, E, Eisenman I.  2017.  Sea ice trends in climate models only accurate in runs with biased global warming. Journal of Climate. 30:6265-6278.   10.1175/jcli-d-16-0455.1   AbstractWebsite

Observations indicate that the Arctic sea ice cover is rapidly retreating while the Antarctic sea ice cover is steadily expanding. State-of-the-art climate models, by contrast, typically simulate a moderate decrease in both the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice covers. However, in each hemisphere there is a small subset of model simulations that have sea ice trends similar to the observations. Based on this, a number of recent studies have suggested that the models are consistent with the observations in each hemisphere when simulated internal climate variability is taken into account. Here sea ice changes during 1979-2013 are examined in simulations from the most recent Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) as well as the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble (CESM-LE), drawing on previous work that found a close relationship in climate models between global-mean surface temperature and sea ice extent. All of the simulations with 1979-2013 Arctic sea ice retreat as fast as observations are found to have considerably more global warming than observations during this time period. Using two separate methods to estimate the sea ice retreat that would occur under the observed level of global warming in each simulation in both ensembles, it is found that simulated Arctic sea ice retreat as fast as observations would occur less than 1% of the time. This implies that the models are not consistent with the observations. In the Antarctic, simulated sea ice expansion as fast as observations is found to typically correspond with too little global warming, although these results are more equivocal. As a result, the simulations do not capture the observed asymmetry between Arctic and Antarctic sea ice trends. This suggests that the models may be getting the right sea ice trends for the wrong reasons in both polar regions.

Wagner, TJW, Stern AA, Dell RW, Eisenman I.  2017.  On the representation of capsizing in iceberg models. Ocean Modelling. 117:88-96.   10.1016/j.ocemod.2017.07.003   AbstractWebsite

Although iceberg models have been used for decades, they have received far more widespread attention in recent years, due in part to efforts to explicitly represent icebergs in climate models. This calls for increased scrutiny of all aspects of typical iceberg models. An important component of iceberg models is the representation of iceberg capsizing, or rolling. Rolling occurs spontaneously when the ratio of iceberg width to height falls below a critical threshold. Here we examine previously proposed representations of this threshold, and we find that there have been crucial flaws in the representation of rolling in many modeling studies to date. We correct these errors and identify an accurate model representation of iceberg rolling. Next, we assess how iceberg rolling influences simulation results in a hierarchy of models. Rolling is found to substantially prolong the lifespan of individual icebergs and allow them to drift farther offshore. However, rolling occurs only after large icebergs have lost most of their initial volume, and it thus has a relatively small impact on the large-scale freshwater distribution in comprehensive model simulations. The results suggest that accurate representations of iceberg rolling may be of particular importance for operational forecast models of iceberg drift, as well as for regional changes in high-resolution climate model simulations. (C) 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

2018
Sun, ST, Eisenman I, Stewart AL.  2018.  Does Southern Ocean surface forcing shape the global ocean overturning circulation? Geophysical Research Letters. 45:2413-2423.   10.1002/2017gl076437   AbstractWebsite

Paleoclimate proxy data suggest that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) was shallower at the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) than its preindustrial (PI) depth. Previous studies have suggested that this shoaling necessarily accompanies Antarctic sea ice expansion at the LGM. Here the influence of Southern Ocean surface forcing on the AMOC depth is investigated using ocean-only simulations from a state-of-the-art climate model with surface forcing specified from the output of previous coupled PI and LGM simulations. In contrast to previous expectations, we find that applying LGM surface forcing in the Southern Ocean and PI surface forcing elsewhere causes the AMOC to shoal only about half as much as when LGM surface forcing is applied globally. We show that this occurs because diapycnal mixing renders the Southern Ocean overturning circulation more diabatic than previously assumed, which diminishes the influence of Southern Ocean surface buoyancy forcing on the depth of the AMOC.

Wagner, TJW, Dell RW, Eisenman I, Keeling RF, Padman L, Severinghaus JP.  2018.  Wave inhibition by sea ice enables trans-Atlantic ice rafting of debris during Heinrich events. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 495:157-163.   10.1016/j.epsl.2018.05.006   AbstractWebsite

The last glacial period was punctuated by episodes of massive iceberg calving from the Laurentide Ice Sheet, called Heinrich events, which are identified by layers of ice-rafted debris (IRD) in ocean sediment cores from the North Atlantic. The thickness of these IRD layers declines more gradually with distance from the iceberg sources than would be expected based on present-day iceberg drift and decay. Here we model icebergs as passive Lagrangian particles driven by ocean currents, winds, and sea surface temperatures. The icebergs are released in a comprehensive climate model simulation of the last glacial maximum (LGM), as well as a simulation of the modern climate. The two simulated climates result in qualitatively similar distributions of iceberg meltwater and hence debris, with the colder temperatures of the LGM having only a relatively small effect on meltwater spread. In both scenarios, meltwater flux falls off rapidly with zonal distance from the source, in contrast with the more uniform spread of IRD in sediment cores. To address this discrepancy, we propose a physical mechanism that could have prolonged the lifetime of icebergs during Heinrich events. The mechanism involves a surface layer of cold and fresh meltwater formed from, and retained around, large densely packed armadas of icebergs. This leads to wintertime sea ice formation even in relatively low latitudes. The sea ice in turn shields the icebergs from wave erosion, which is the main source of iceberg ablation. We find that sea ice could plausibly have formed around the icebergs during four months each winter. Allowing for four months of sea ice in the model results in a simulated IRD distribution which approximately agrees with the distribution of IRD in sediment cores. (C) 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

2019
Pistone, K, Eisenman I, Ramanathan V.  2019.  Radiative heating of an ice-free Arctic Ocean. Geophysical Research Letters. 46:7474-7480.: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd   10.1029/2019GL082914   Abstract

Abstract During recent decades, there has been dramatic Arctic sea ice retreat. This has reduced the top-of-atmosphere albedo, adding more solar energy to the climate system. There is substantial uncertainty regarding how much ice retreat and associated solar heating will occur in the future. This is relevant to future climate projections, including the timescale for reaching global warming stabilization targets. Here we use satellite observations to estimate the amount of solar energy that would be added in the worst-case scenario of a complete disappearance of Arctic sea ice throughout the sunlit part of the year. Assuming constant cloudiness, we calculate a global radiative heating of 0.71 W/m2 relative to the 1979 baseline state. This is equivalent to the effect of one trillion tons of CO2 emissions. These results suggest that the additional heating due to complete Arctic sea ice loss would hasten global warming by an estimated 25 years.