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Do Planetary Wave Dynamics Contribute to Equable Climates?

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
  • | 2 Earth and Environment Systems Institute, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
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Abstract

Viable explanations for equable climates of the Cretaceous and early Cenozoic (from about 145 to 50 million years ago), especially for the above-freezing temperatures detected for high-latitude continental winters, have been a long-standing challenge. In this study, the authors suggest that enhanced and localized tropical convection, associated with a strengthened paleo–warm pool, may contribute toward high-latitude warming through the excitation of poleward-propagating Rossby waves. This warming takes place through the poleward heat flux and an overturning circulation that accompany the Rossby waves. This mechanism is tested with an atmosphere–mixed layer ocean general circulation model (GCM) by imposing idealized localized heating and compensating cooling, a heating structure that mimics the effect of warm-pool convective heating.

The localized tropical heating is indeed found to contribute to a warming of the Arctic during the winter. Within the range of 0–150 W m−2 for the heating intensity, the average rate for the zonal mean Arctic surface warming is 0.8°C per (10 W m−2) increase in the heating for the runs with an atmospheric CO2 level of 4 × PAL (Preindustrial Atmospheric Level, 1 PAL = 280 ppmv), the Cretaceous and early Cenozoic values considered for this study. This rate of warming for the Arctic is lower in model runs with 1 × PAL CO2, which show an increase of 0.3°C per (10 W m−2). Further increase of the heating intensity beyond 150 W m−2 produces little change in the Arctic surface air temperature. This saturation behavior is interpreted as being a result of nonlinear wave–wave interaction, which leads to equatorward wave refraction.

Under the 4 × PAL CO2 level, raising the heating from 120 W m−2 (estimated warm-pool convective heating value for the present-day climate) to 150 and 180 W m −2 (estimated values for the Cretaceous and early Cenozoic) produces a warming of 4°–8°C over northern Siberia and the adjacent Arctic Ocean. Relative to the warming caused by a quadrupling of CO2 alone, this temperature increase accounts for about 30% of the warming over this region. The possible influence of warm-pool convective heating on the present-day Arctic is also discussed.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Sukyoung Lee, Dept. of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802. E-mail: sl@meteo.psu.edu

Abstract

Viable explanations for equable climates of the Cretaceous and early Cenozoic (from about 145 to 50 million years ago), especially for the above-freezing temperatures detected for high-latitude continental winters, have been a long-standing challenge. In this study, the authors suggest that enhanced and localized tropical convection, associated with a strengthened paleo–warm pool, may contribute toward high-latitude warming through the excitation of poleward-propagating Rossby waves. This warming takes place through the poleward heat flux and an overturning circulation that accompany the Rossby waves. This mechanism is tested with an atmosphere–mixed layer ocean general circulation model (GCM) by imposing idealized localized heating and compensating cooling, a heating structure that mimics the effect of warm-pool convective heating.

The localized tropical heating is indeed found to contribute to a warming of the Arctic during the winter. Within the range of 0–150 W m−2 for the heating intensity, the average rate for the zonal mean Arctic surface warming is 0.8°C per (10 W m−2) increase in the heating for the runs with an atmospheric CO2 level of 4 × PAL (Preindustrial Atmospheric Level, 1 PAL = 280 ppmv), the Cretaceous and early Cenozoic values considered for this study. This rate of warming for the Arctic is lower in model runs with 1 × PAL CO2, which show an increase of 0.3°C per (10 W m−2). Further increase of the heating intensity beyond 150 W m−2 produces little change in the Arctic surface air temperature. This saturation behavior is interpreted as being a result of nonlinear wave–wave interaction, which leads to equatorward wave refraction.

Under the 4 × PAL CO2 level, raising the heating from 120 W m−2 (estimated warm-pool convective heating value for the present-day climate) to 150 and 180 W m −2 (estimated values for the Cretaceous and early Cenozoic) produces a warming of 4°–8°C over northern Siberia and the adjacent Arctic Ocean. Relative to the warming caused by a quadrupling of CO2 alone, this temperature increase accounts for about 30% of the warming over this region. The possible influence of warm-pool convective heating on the present-day Arctic is also discussed.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Sukyoung Lee, Dept. of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802. E-mail: sl@meteo.psu.edu
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