DOI: 10.1029/2023gl105948 ISSN: 0094-8276

Winds and Meltwater Together Lead to Southern Ocean Surface Cooling and Sea Ice Expansion

Lettie A. Roach, Kenneth D. Mankoff, Anastasia Romanou, Edward Blanchard‐Wrigglesworth, Thomas W. N. Haine, Gavin. A. Schmidt
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • Geophysics


Southern Ocean surface cooling and Antarctic sea ice expansion from 1979 through 2015 have been linked both to changing atmospheric circulation and melting of Antarctica's grounded ice and ice shelves. However, climate models have largely been unable to reproduce this behavior. Here we examine the contribution of observed wind variability and Antarctic meltwater to Southern Ocean sea surface temperature (SST) and Antarctic sea ice. The free‐running, CMIP6‐class GISS‐E2.1‐G climate model can simulate regional cooling and neutral sea ice trends due to internal variability, but they are unlikely. Constraining the model to observed winds and meltwater fluxes from 1990 through 2021 gives SST variability and trends consistent with observations. Meltwater and winds contribute a similar amount to the SST trend, and winds contribute more to the sea ice trend than meltwater. However, while the constrained model captures much of the observed sea ice variability, it only partially captures the post‐2015 sea ice reduction.

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