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The Strength of the Brewer–Dobson Circulation in a Changing Climate: Coupled Chemistry–Climate Model Simulations

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  • 1 Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Program, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
  • | 2 NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, New Jersey
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Abstract

The strength of the Brewer–Dobson circulation (BDC) in a changing climate is studied using multidecadal simulations covering the 1960–2100 period with a coupled chemistry–climate model, to examine the seasonality of the change of the BDC. The model simulates an intensification of the BDC in both the past (1960–2004) and future (2005–2100) climate, but the seasonal cycle is different. In the past climate simulation, nearly half of the tropical upward mass flux increase occurs in December–February, whereas in the future climate simulation the enhancement of the BDC is uniformly distributed in each of the four seasons. A downward control analysis implies that this different seasonality is caused mainly by the behavior of the Southern Hemisphere planetary wave forcing, which exhibits a very different long-term trend during solstice seasons in the past and future. The Southern Hemisphere summer planetary wave activity is investigated in detail, and its evolution is found to be closely related to ozone depletion and recovery. In the model results for the past, about 60% of the lower-stratospheric mass flux increase is caused by ozone depletion, but because of model ozone trend biases, the atmospheric effect was likely smaller than this. The remaining fraction of the mass flux increase is attributed primarily to greenhouse gas increase. The downward control analysis also reveals that orographic gravity waves contribute significantly to the increase of downward mass flux in the Northern Hemisphere winter lower stratosphere.

Corresponding author address: Feng Li, NASA GSFC, Code 613.3, Greenbelt, MD 20771. Email: fengli@welkin.gsfc.nasa.gov

Abstract

The strength of the Brewer–Dobson circulation (BDC) in a changing climate is studied using multidecadal simulations covering the 1960–2100 period with a coupled chemistry–climate model, to examine the seasonality of the change of the BDC. The model simulates an intensification of the BDC in both the past (1960–2004) and future (2005–2100) climate, but the seasonal cycle is different. In the past climate simulation, nearly half of the tropical upward mass flux increase occurs in December–February, whereas in the future climate simulation the enhancement of the BDC is uniformly distributed in each of the four seasons. A downward control analysis implies that this different seasonality is caused mainly by the behavior of the Southern Hemisphere planetary wave forcing, which exhibits a very different long-term trend during solstice seasons in the past and future. The Southern Hemisphere summer planetary wave activity is investigated in detail, and its evolution is found to be closely related to ozone depletion and recovery. In the model results for the past, about 60% of the lower-stratospheric mass flux increase is caused by ozone depletion, but because of model ozone trend biases, the atmospheric effect was likely smaller than this. The remaining fraction of the mass flux increase is attributed primarily to greenhouse gas increase. The downward control analysis also reveals that orographic gravity waves contribute significantly to the increase of downward mass flux in the Northern Hemisphere winter lower stratosphere.

Corresponding author address: Feng Li, NASA GSFC, Code 613.3, Greenbelt, MD 20771. Email: fengli@welkin.gsfc.nasa.gov

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