Quantifying the ice-albedo feedback through decoupling

Thursday, December 14, 2017 - 16:15
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The ice-albedo feedback involves numerous individual components, whereby warming induces sea ice melt, inducing reduced surface albedo, inducing increased surface shortwave absorption, causing further warming. Here we attempt to quantify the sea ice albedo feedback using an analogue of the "partial radiative perturbation" method, but where the governing mechanisms are directly decoupled in a climate model. As an example, we can isolate the insulating effects of sea ice on surface energy and moisture fluxes by allowing sea ice thickness to change but fixing Arctic surface albedo, or vice versa.

Here we present results from such idealized simulations using the Community Earth System Model in which individual components are successively fixed, effectively decoupling the ice-albedo feedback loop. We isolate the different components of this feedback, including temperature change, sea ice extent/thickness, and air-sea exchange of heat and moisture. We explore the interactions between these different components, as well as the strengths of the total feedback in the decoupled feedback loop, to quantify contributions from individual pieces. We also quantify the non-additivity of the effects of the components as a means of investigating the dominant sources of nonlinearity in the ice-albedo feedback.

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