Consistent and contrasting decadal Arctic sea ice thickness predictions from a highly optimized sea ice model

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Miller, Paul A. ; Laxon, Seymour W. ; Feltham, Daniel L. (2007)

[1] Decadal hindcast simulations of Arctic Ocean sea ice thickness made by a modern dynamic-thermodynamic sea ice model and forced independently by both the ERA-40 and NCEP/NCAR reanalysis data sets are compared for the first time. Using comprehensive data sets of observations made between 1979 and 2001 of sea ice thickness, draft, extent, and speeds, we find that it is possible to tune model parameters to give satisfactory agreement with observed data, thereby highlighting the skill of modern sea ice models, though the parameter values chosen differ according to the model forcing used. We find a consistent decreasing trend in Arctic Ocean sea ice thickness since 1979, and a steady decline in the Eastern Arctic Ocean over the full 40-year period of comparison that accelerated after 1980, but the predictions of Western Arctic Ocean sea ice thickness between 1962 and 1980 differ substantially. The origins of differing thickness trends and variability were isolated not to parameter differences but to differences in the forcing fields applied, and in how they are applied. It is argued that uncertainty, differences and errors in sea ice model forcing sets complicate the use of models to determine the exact causes of the recently reported decline in Arctic sea ice thickness, but help in the determination of robust features if the models are tuned appropriately against observations.
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