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studies of Key Polar Ocean and Climate Processes with high resolution coupled climate models

Alternative title: Studier av nøkkelprosesser i polart hav og klima ved bruk av høyoppløselige koblede klimamodeller

Awarded: NOK 10.0 mill.

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Project Period:

2022 - 2025

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The present-day Arctic is in fast transition. In particular, the atmosphere and ocean are warming, and the cryosphere is retreating. Such a regime shift in the Arctic can have immediate and profound impacts on the marine ecosystems and fisheries and hence on society. What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Changes in the Arctic sea-ice and freshwater content have far-field consequences that can modify European climate and warm the Southern Ocean - potentially leading to accelerated loss of Antarctic sea/land ice. The Antarctic, long considered to be buffered from the effects of climate change by the Southern Ocean, is observed to suffer from thinning of ice shelves in multiple sites induced by the ocean warming underneath. The weakened buttressing effect of ice shelves is contributing an increasing share to the global mean sea level rise, disproportionately affecting Europe. The rapid changes that are underway in the Arctic and part of Antarctica urge a thorough assessment of the key ocean and climate processes, as well as how they may fundamentally change in a warming future. Climate models are instrumental in understanding the polar climate, but large uncertainties remain due to unresolved key processes in both the regional and global context. The primary objective of KeyPOCP is to improve our understanding of the dependence of polar ocean and climate dynamics and their global connections on small scale processes (e.g. circumpolar currents, shelf-basin exchange) that are currently unresolved in state-of-the-art climate models. To achieve that, we will take advantage of a recent unprecedented ensemble of high-resolution CESM simulations, complemented by NorESM simulations of comparable resolution, as well as targeted regional climate model simulations with even higher resolution. The modelling efforts will be benchmarked and constrained by advanced field observations (gliders, moorings, MOSAiC drift, seals, etc.).

Underlying the polar climate system is a number of closely coupled processes that are interconnected through complex feedbacks on a range of temporal and spatial scales. Understanding of these processes often relies on regional and global climate modelling as instrumental records are limited in these inaccessible and remote areas. The lack of observational constraints makes model evaluation and assessment of future climate change challenging, which is problematic as the latest generation climate models (CMIP6-class) are unable to resolve many of the physical processes acting in the polar regions. While some of these processes will remain unresolved for the foreseeable future, KeyPOCP will focus on a set of key processes that emerging simulations are starting to resolve. Specifically, KeyPOCP will quantify how dense water formation, shelf-basin exchange, air-sea interaction, and extreme precipitation events at high-latitudes depend on resolving the oceanic mesoscale and atmospheric storms at present and in a warmer future. To this end, KeyPOCP takes advantage of new high-resolution, fully coupled climate model simulations - including two global and one regional configurations - and existing observations in the Svalbard region and in the Weddell Sea.

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