Observing Interannual Variations in Hadley Circulation Atmospheric Diabatic Heating and Circulation Strength

Norman G. Loeb NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia

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David A. Rutan Science Systems and Applications, Inc., Hampton, Virginia

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Seiji Kato NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia

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Weijie Wang Science Systems and Applications, Inc., Hampton, Virginia

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Abstract

Satellite and reanalysis data are used to observe interannual variations in atmospheric diabatic heating and circulation within the ascending and descending branches of the Hadley circulation (HC) during the past 12 yr. The column-integrated divergence of dry static energy (DSE) and kinetic energy is inferred from satellite-based observations of atmospheric radiation, precipitation latent heating, and reanalysis-based surface sensible heat flux for monthly positions of the HC branches, determined from a mass weighted zonal mean meridional streamfunction analysis. Mean surface radiative fluxes inferred from satellite and surface measurements are consistent to 1 W m−2 (<1%) over land and 4 W m−2 (2%) over ocean. In the ascending branch, where precipitation latent heating dominates over radiative cooling, discrepancies in latent heating among different precipitation datasets reach 22 W m−2 (17%), compared to 3–6 W m−2 in the descending branches. Whereas direct calculations of DSE divergence from two reanalyses show opposite trends, the implied DSE divergence from the satellite observations of atmospheric diabatic heating exhibits no trend in all three HC branches and is strongly correlated (reaching 0.90) with midtropospheric vertical velocity. The implied DSE divergence from satellite observations thus provides a useful independent measure of HC circulation strength variability. The sensitivity to circulation change is 4–5 times larger for precipitation latent heating compared to atmospheric radiative cooling in the descending branches and 20 times larger in the ascending branch. The difference in sensitivity is due to cloud radiative effects, which enhance atmospheric radiative cooling in the descending branches in response to an increase in HC strength but decrease it in the ascending branch.

Current affiliation: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Norman G. Loeb, Mail Stop 420, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA 23681-2199. E-mail: norman.g.loeb@nasa.gov

Abstract

Satellite and reanalysis data are used to observe interannual variations in atmospheric diabatic heating and circulation within the ascending and descending branches of the Hadley circulation (HC) during the past 12 yr. The column-integrated divergence of dry static energy (DSE) and kinetic energy is inferred from satellite-based observations of atmospheric radiation, precipitation latent heating, and reanalysis-based surface sensible heat flux for monthly positions of the HC branches, determined from a mass weighted zonal mean meridional streamfunction analysis. Mean surface radiative fluxes inferred from satellite and surface measurements are consistent to 1 W m−2 (<1%) over land and 4 W m−2 (2%) over ocean. In the ascending branch, where precipitation latent heating dominates over radiative cooling, discrepancies in latent heating among different precipitation datasets reach 22 W m−2 (17%), compared to 3–6 W m−2 in the descending branches. Whereas direct calculations of DSE divergence from two reanalyses show opposite trends, the implied DSE divergence from the satellite observations of atmospheric diabatic heating exhibits no trend in all three HC branches and is strongly correlated (reaching 0.90) with midtropospheric vertical velocity. The implied DSE divergence from satellite observations thus provides a useful independent measure of HC circulation strength variability. The sensitivity to circulation change is 4–5 times larger for precipitation latent heating compared to atmospheric radiative cooling in the descending branches and 20 times larger in the ascending branch. The difference in sensitivity is due to cloud radiative effects, which enhance atmospheric radiative cooling in the descending branches in response to an increase in HC strength but decrease it in the ascending branch.

Current affiliation: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Norman G. Loeb, Mail Stop 420, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA 23681-2199. E-mail: norman.g.loeb@nasa.gov
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