Arctic decadal variability in a warming world

Eveline C. van der Linden*, Richard Bintanja, Wilco Hazeleger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Natural decadal variability of surface air temperature might obscure Arctic temperature trends induced by anthropogenic forcing. It is therefore imperative to know how Arctic decadal variability (ADV) will change as the climate warms. In this study, we evaluate ADV characteristics in three equilibrium climates with present-day, double, and quadrupled atmospheric CO2 forcing. The dominant region of variability, which is located over the Barents and Greenland Sea at present, shifts to the central Arctic and Siberian regions as the climate warms. The maximum variability in sea ice cover and surface air temperature occurs in the CO2 doubling climate when sea ice becomes more vulnerable to melt over vast stretches of the Arctic. Furthermore, the links between dominant atmospheric circulation modes and Arctic surface climate characteristics vary strongly with climate change. For instance, a positive Arctic Oscillation index is associated with a colder Arctic in warmer climates, instead of a warmer Arctic at present. Such changing relationships are partly related to the retreat of sea ice because altered wind patterns influence the sea ice distribution and hence the associated local surface fluxes. The atmospheric pressure distributions governing ADV and the associated large-scale dynamics also change with climate warming. The changing character of the ADV shows that it is vital to consider (changes in) ADV when addressing Arctic warming in climate model projections.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5677-5696
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Air-sea interactions
  • Arctic climate
  • Atmospheric circulation
  • Climate change
  • Decadal variability


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