Impacts of ocean albedo alteration on Arctic sea ice restoration and Northern Hemisphere climate

Monday, 15 December 2014
Ivana Cvijanovic1,2, Ken Caldeira1 and Douglas G MacMartin3, (1)Carnegie Institution, Stanford, CA, United States, (2)University of Copenhagen, Centre for Ice and Climate, Copenhagen, Denmark, (3)California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States
The Arctic Ocean is expected to transition into a nearly ice-free state by mid-century, enhancing Arctic warming and leading to substantial ecological and socio-economical challenges across the Arctic region. It has been proposed that artificially increasing ocean albedo could restore sea ice, but the climate impacts of such a strategy have not been previously explored. Motivated by this, in this study we investigate the effects of ocean albedo alteration on Arctic sea ice recovery and Northern Hemisphere climate.

Using a Community Earth System Model, in a set of idealized model simulations with altered ocean albedo values, we show that partial sea ice recovery is possible even in very warm climates. However, our simulations reveal that there is only modest impact on Arctic temperatures indicating that this method cannot substantially offset the overall effects of human induced warming. Moreover, in our simulations, the effects of sea ice changes are not limited to the Arctic, but also affect precipitation distribution over the continental United States. For example, following sea ice recovery, wetter and milder winter conditions are expected in the North American southwest.