Abrupt climate change is a striking feature of many climate records, particularly the warming events in Greenland ice cores. These abrupt and high-amplitude events were tightly coupled to rapid sea-ice retreat in the North Atlantic and Nordic Seas, and observational evidence shows they had global repercussions. In the present-day Arctic, sea-ice loss is also key to ongoing warming. This Perspective uses observations and climate models to place contemporary Arctic change into the context of past abrupt Greenland warmings. We find that warming rates similar to or higher than modern trends have only occurred during past abrupt glacial episodes. We argue that the Arctic is currently experiencing an abrupt climate change event, and that climate models underestimate this ongoing warming.
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Code used to generate the figures can be downloaded from the project website: https://ice2ice.w.uib.no/publications/ and from GitHub: https://github.com/ice2ice-synthesis/Nature-Climate-Change-perspective.git. Files to reproduce Figs. 1–5 can be found in Supplementary Data.
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We acknowledge funding from a Synergy Grant from the European Research Council under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC (grant agreement 610055) as part of the ice2ice project. We thank our ice2ice colleagues for fruitful discussions and encouragement. E.C. acknowledges support from the Chronoclimate project funded by the Carlsberg Foundation. For CMIP, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global organization for Earth System Science Portals.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Supplementary Text 1 and 2, Figs. 1 and 2, and Tables 1 and 2.
Source data for Fig. 1. Raw data from ECWMF ERA-Interim.
Source data for Fig. 2. Time series data in Excel format.
Source data for Fig. 3. Time series data in text format.
Source data for Fig. 4. Model output data in NetCDF format.
Source data for Fig. 5. Time series from models in ascii format.
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Jansen, E., Christensen, J.H., Dokken, T. et al. Past perspectives on the present era of abrupt Arctic climate change. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 714–721 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0860-7