Changement climatique - Recherche française (avec laboratoires CNRS) - 2010-2015


IPCC climate models do not capture Arctic sea ice drift acceleration: Consequences in terms of projected sea ice thinning and decline

Publication Year


  • Rampal, P.
  • Weiss, J.
  • Dubois, C.
  • Campin, J. -M.
JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-OCEANS Volume: 116 Article Number: C00D07 Published: 2011
2169-9275 eISSN: 2169-9291

IPCC climate models underestimate the decrease of the Arctic sea ice extent. The recent Arctic sea ice decline is also characterized by a rapid thinning and by an increase of sea ice kinematics (velocities and deformation rates), with both processes being coupled through positive feedbacks. In this study we show that IPCC climate models underestimate the observed thinning trend by a factor of almost 4 on average and fail to capture the associated accelerated motion. The coupling between the ice state (thickness and concentration) and ice velocity is unexpectedly weak in most models. In particular, sea ice drifts faster during the months when it is thick and packed than when it is thin, contrary to what is observed; also models with larger long-term thinning trends do not show higher drift acceleration. This weak coupling behavior (1) suggests that the positive feedbacks mentioned above are underestimated and (2) can partly explain the models' underestimation of the recent sea ice area, thickness, and velocity trends. Due partly to this weak coupling, ice export does not play an important role in the simulated negative balance of Arctic sea ice mass between 1950 and 2050. If we assume a positive trend on ice speeds at straits equivalent to the one observed since 1979 within the Arctic basin, first-order estimations give shrinking and thinning trends that become significantly closer to the observations.

KeyWord(s) Plus
ESI Discipline(s)
  • Geosciences
  • Plant & Animal Science
Web of Science Category(ies)
  • Oceanography

[Rampal, P.; Weiss, J.] Univ Grenoble 1, Lab Glaciol & Geophys Environm, CNRS, F-38402 St Martin Dheres, France; [Rampal, P.; Campin, J. -M.] MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139 USA; [Dubois, C.] Ctr Natl Rech Meteorol, F-31057 Toulouse, France

Reprint Adress

Rampal, P (reprint author), MIT, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139 USA.

  • France
  • United States
CNRS - Adress(es)
  • Laboratoire de glaciologie et géophysique de l'environnement (LGGE), UMR5183
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