Arctic Amplification of Anthropogenic Forcing: A Vector Autoregressive Analysis

05/05/2020
by   Philippe Goulet Coulombe, et al.
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Arctic sea ice extent (SIE) in September 2019 ranked second-to-lowest in history and is trending downward. The understanding of how internal variability amplifies the effects of external CO_2 forcing is still limited. We propose the VARCTIC, which is a Vector Autoregression (VAR) designed to capture and extrapolate Arctic feedback loops. VARs are dynamic simultaneous systems of equations, routinely estimated to predict and understand the interactions of multiple macroeconomic time series. Hence, the VARCTIC is a parsimonious compromise between fullblown climate models and purely statistical approaches that usually offer little explanation of the underlying mechanism. Our "business as usual" completely unconditional forecast has SIE hitting 0 in September by the 2060s. Impulse response functions reveal that anthropogenic CO_2 emission shocks have a permanent effect on SIE - a property shared by no other shock. Further, we find Albedo- and Thickness-based feedbacks to be the main amplification channels through which CO_2 anomalies impact SIE in the short/medium run. Conditional forecast analyses reveal that the future path of SIE crucially depends on the evolution of CO_2 emissions, with outcomes ranging from recovering SIE to it reaching 0 in the 2050s. Finally, Albedo and Thickness feedbacks are shown to play an important role in accelerating the speed at which predicted SIE is heading towards 0.

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