Articles | Volume 5, issue 1
Research article
25 Jun 2014
Research article |  | 25 Jun 2014

Inter-hemispheric asymmetry in the sea-ice response to volcanic forcing simulated by MPI-ESM (COSMOS-Mill)

D. Zanchettin, O. Bothe, C. Timmreck, J. Bader, A. Beitsch, H.-F. Graf, D. Notz, and J. H. Jungclaus

Abstract. The decadal evolution of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice following strong volcanic eruptions is investigated in four climate simulation ensembles performed with the COSMOS-Mill version of the Max Planck Institute Earth System Model. The ensembles differ in the magnitude of the imposed volcanic perturbations, with sizes representative of historical tropical eruptions (1991 Pinatubo and 1815 Tambora) and of tropical and extra-tropical "supervolcano" eruptions. A post-eruption Arctic sea-ice expansion is robustly detected in all ensembles, while Antarctic sea ice responds only to supervolcano eruptions, undergoing an initial short-lived expansion and a subsequent prolonged contraction phase. Strong volcanic forcing therefore emerges as a potential source of inter-hemispheric interannual-to-decadal climate variability, although the inter-hemispheric signature is weak in the case of eruptions comparable to historical eruptions. The post-eruption inter-hemispheric decadal asymmetry in sea ice is interpreted as a consequence mainly of the different exposure of Arctic and Antarctic regional climates to induced meridional heat transport changes and of dominating local feedbacks that set in within the Antarctic region. Supervolcano experiments help to clarify differences in simulated hemispheric internal dynamics related to imposed negative net radiative imbalances, including the relative importance of the thermal and dynamical components of the sea-ice response. Supervolcano experiments could therefore serve the assessment of climate models' behavior under strong external forcing conditions and, consequently, favor advancements in our understanding of simulated sea-ice dynamics.

Final-revised paper