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Potential Vorticity Diagnostics to Quantify Effects of Latent Heating in Extratropical Cyclones. Part II: Application to Idealized Climate Change Simulations

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  • 1 Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland, and Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany
  • | 2 Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland, and Institute of Meteorology, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
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Abstract

It is still debated how enhanced cloud-condensational latent heating (LH) in a warmer and moister climate may affect the dynamics of extratropical cyclones. In this study, a diagnostic method that explicitly quantifies the contribution of LH to the lower-tropospheric cyclonic potential vorticity (PV) anomaly is used to investigate the effects of stronger LH on the dynamics, intensity, and impacts of cyclones in two conceptually different sets of idealized climate change simulations. A first set of regional surrogate climate change simulations of individual moderate to intense Northern Hemisphere cyclones in a spatially homogeneously 4-K-warmer climate reveals that enhanced LH can largely but not exclusively explain the substantially varying increase in intensity and impacts of most of these cyclones. A second set of idealized aquaplanet GCM simulations demonstrates that the role of enhanced LH becomes multifaceted for large ensembles of cyclones if climate warming is additionally accompanied by changes in the horizontal and vertical temperature structure: cyclone intensity increases with warming due to the continuous increase in LH, reaches a maximum in climates warmer than present day, and decreases beyond a certain warming once the increase of LH is overcompensated by the counteracting reduction in mean available potential energy. Because of their substantially stronger increase in LH, the most intense cyclones reach their maximum intensity in warmer climates than moderately intense cyclones with weaker LH. This suggests that future projections of the extreme tail of the storm tracks might be particularly sensitive to a correct representation of LH.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dominik Büeler, dominik.bueeler@kit.edu

This article has a companion article which can be found at http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JAS-D-17-0041.1.

Abstract

It is still debated how enhanced cloud-condensational latent heating (LH) in a warmer and moister climate may affect the dynamics of extratropical cyclones. In this study, a diagnostic method that explicitly quantifies the contribution of LH to the lower-tropospheric cyclonic potential vorticity (PV) anomaly is used to investigate the effects of stronger LH on the dynamics, intensity, and impacts of cyclones in two conceptually different sets of idealized climate change simulations. A first set of regional surrogate climate change simulations of individual moderate to intense Northern Hemisphere cyclones in a spatially homogeneously 4-K-warmer climate reveals that enhanced LH can largely but not exclusively explain the substantially varying increase in intensity and impacts of most of these cyclones. A second set of idealized aquaplanet GCM simulations demonstrates that the role of enhanced LH becomes multifaceted for large ensembles of cyclones if climate warming is additionally accompanied by changes in the horizontal and vertical temperature structure: cyclone intensity increases with warming due to the continuous increase in LH, reaches a maximum in climates warmer than present day, and decreases beyond a certain warming once the increase of LH is overcompensated by the counteracting reduction in mean available potential energy. Because of their substantially stronger increase in LH, the most intense cyclones reach their maximum intensity in warmer climates than moderately intense cyclones with weaker LH. This suggests that future projections of the extreme tail of the storm tracks might be particularly sensitive to a correct representation of LH.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dominik Büeler, dominik.bueeler@kit.edu

This article has a companion article which can be found at http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JAS-D-17-0041.1.

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