Variability of Sea Ice Over Decadal and Longer Timescales


John Walsh

08:30:00 - 09:20:00

101 , Mathematics Research Center Building (ori. New Math. Bldg.)

Recent syntheses of sea ice and related proxy information have provided an improved picture of Arctic sea ice variability over decadal and longer timescales. A spectrum of variability is superimposed on a recent decrease of Arctic sea ice. An outstanding feature is the correspondence with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, which has timescales of 50–120 years. The linkage appears to arise through the inflow of Atlantic Water to the Arctic Ocean. Less robust, and by all indications non-stationary, associations with atmospheric modes such as the North Atlantic Oscillation have also been documented, primarily in recent decades. One possible reason for the nonstationarity of such associations is that the centers of action of major atmospheric modes may change over the timescale of centuries or even less. Observational information on Antarctic sea ice variability is virtually nonexistent beyond the past 100–150 years, so proxy information provides the only clues to longer-term Antarctic sea ice variability. Such information obtained from ice cores suggests that wintertime ice extent in the East Antarctic sector has decreased by about 20% since 1950, and that multicentury variations also characterize Antarctic ice extent.

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