Climate bifurcations in a Schwarzschild equation model of the Arctic atmosphere

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A column model of the Arctic atmosphere is developed including the nonlinear positive feedback responses of surface albedo and water vapour to temperature. The atmosphere is treated as a grey gas and the flux of longwave radiation is governed by the two-stream Schwarzschild equations. Water vapour concentration is determined by the Clausius-Clapeyron equation. Representative concentration pathways (RCPs) are used to model carbon dioxide concentrations into the future. The resulting 9D two-point boundary value problem is solved under various RCPs and the solutions analysed. The model predicts that under the highest carbon pathway, the Arctic climate will undergo an irreversible bifurcation to a warm steady state, which would correspond to annually ice-free conditions. Under the lowest carbon pathway, corresponding to very aggressive carbon emission reductions, the model exhibits only a mild increase in Arctic temperatures. Under the two intermediate carbon pathways, temperatures increase more substantially, and the system enters a region of bistability where external perturbations could possibly cause an irreversible switch to a warm, ice-free state.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNonlinear Processes in Geophysics
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)219-239
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2022

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