The Arctic freshwater cycle during a naturally and an anthropogenically induced warm climate

F.J. Davies, H. Renssen, H. Goosse

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The Arctic freshwater cycle plays an important role in regulating regional and global climate. Current observations suggest that an intensification of the high-northern latitude hydrological cycle has caused a freshening of the Arctic and sub-Arctic seas, increasing the potential of weakening overturning strength in the Nordic seas, and reducing temperatures. It is not known if this freshening is a manifestation of the current anthropogenic warming and if the Arctic freshwater cycle has exhibited similar changes in the past, in particular as a response to naturally induced periods of warming, for example during the mid-Holocene hypsithermal. Thus, we have used an earth model of intermediate complexity, LOVECLIM, to investigate the response of the Arctic freshwater cycle, during two warm periods that evolved under different sets of forcings, the mid-Holocene and the twenty-first century. A combination of proxy reconstructions and modelling studies have shown these two periods to exhibit similar surface temperature anomalies, compared to the pre-industrial period, however, it has yet to be determined if the Arctic freshwater cycle and thus, the transport and redistribution of freshwater to the Arctic and the sub-Arctic seas, during these two warm periods, is comparable. Here we provide an overview that shows that the response of the Arctic freshwater cycle during the first half of the twenty-first century can be interpreted as an 'extreme' mid-Holocene hydrological cycle. Whilst for the remainder of the twenty-first century, the Arctic freshwater cycle and the majority of its components will likely transition into what can only be described as truly anthropogenic in nature. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2099-2112
JournalClimate Dynamics
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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