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Hemispherical Asymmetry of Tropical Precipitation in ECHAM5/MPI-OM during El Niño and under Global Warming

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  • 1 Research Center for Environmental Changes, Academia Sinica, and Department of Atmospheric Sciences, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
  • 2 Research Center for Environmental Changes, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
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Abstract

Similarities and differences between El Niño and global warming are examined in hemispherical and zonal tropical precipitation changes of the ECHAM5/Max Planck Institute Ocean Model (MPI-OM) simulations. Similarities include hemispherical asymmetry of tropical precipitation changes. This precipitation asymmetry varies with season. In the boreal summer and autumn (winter and spring), positive precipitation anomalies are found over the Northern (Southern) Hemisphere and negative precipitation anomalies are found over the Southern (Northern) Hemisphere. This precipitation asymmetry in both the El Niño and global warming cases is associated with the seasonal migration of the Hadley circulation; however, their causes are different. In El Niño, a meridional moisture gradient between convective and subsidence regions is the fundamental basis for inducing the asymmetry. Over the ascending branch of the Hadley circulation, convection is enhanced by less effective static stability. Over the margins of the ascending branch, convection is suppressed by the import of dry air from the descending branch. In global warming, low-level moisture is enhanced significantly due to warmer tropospheric temperatures. This enhances vertical moisture transport over the ascending branch of the Hadley circulation, so convection is strengthened. Over the descending branch, the mean Hadley circulation tends to transport relatively drier air downward, so convection is reduced.

Corresponding author address: Chia Chou, Research Center for Environmental Changes, Academia Sinica, P.O. Box 1-48, Taipei 11529, Taiwan. Email: chiachou@rcec.sinica.edu.tw

Abstract

Similarities and differences between El Niño and global warming are examined in hemispherical and zonal tropical precipitation changes of the ECHAM5/Max Planck Institute Ocean Model (MPI-OM) simulations. Similarities include hemispherical asymmetry of tropical precipitation changes. This precipitation asymmetry varies with season. In the boreal summer and autumn (winter and spring), positive precipitation anomalies are found over the Northern (Southern) Hemisphere and negative precipitation anomalies are found over the Southern (Northern) Hemisphere. This precipitation asymmetry in both the El Niño and global warming cases is associated with the seasonal migration of the Hadley circulation; however, their causes are different. In El Niño, a meridional moisture gradient between convective and subsidence regions is the fundamental basis for inducing the asymmetry. Over the ascending branch of the Hadley circulation, convection is enhanced by less effective static stability. Over the margins of the ascending branch, convection is suppressed by the import of dry air from the descending branch. In global warming, low-level moisture is enhanced significantly due to warmer tropospheric temperatures. This enhances vertical moisture transport over the ascending branch of the Hadley circulation, so convection is strengthened. Over the descending branch, the mean Hadley circulation tends to transport relatively drier air downward, so convection is reduced.

Corresponding author address: Chia Chou, Research Center for Environmental Changes, Academia Sinica, P.O. Box 1-48, Taipei 11529, Taiwan. Email: chiachou@rcec.sinica.edu.tw

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