Assessment of sea ice-atmosphere links in CMIP5 models
© 2016, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. The Arctic is currently undergoing drastic changes in climate, largely thought to be due to so-called ‘Arctic amplification’, whereby local feedbacks enhance global warming. Recently, a number of observational and modelling studies have questioned what the implications of this change in Arctic sea ice extent might be for weather in Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes, and in particular whether recent extremely cold winters such as 2009/10 might be consistent with an influence from observed Arctic sea ice decline. However, the proposed mechanisms for these links have not been consistently demonstrated. In a uniquely comprehensive cross-season and cross-model study, we show that the CMIP5 models provide no support for a relationship between declining Arctic sea ice and a negative NAM, or between declining Barents–Kara sea ice and cold European temperatures. The lack of evidence for the proposed links is consistent with studies that report a low signal-to-noise ratio in these relationships. These results imply that, whilst links may exist between declining sea ice and extreme cold weather events in the Northern Hemisphere, the CMIP5 model experiments do not show this to be a leading order effect in the long-term. We argue that this is likely due to a combination of the limitations of the CMIP5 models and an indication of other important long-term influences on Northern Hemisphere climate.