Insights into the Zonal-Mean Response of the Hydrologic Cycle to Global Warming from a Diffusive Energy Balance Model

Nicholas Siler College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

Search for other papers by Nicholas Siler in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
,
Gerard H. Roe Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Search for other papers by Gerard H. Roe in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
, and
Kyle C. Armour School of Oceanography and Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Search for other papers by Kyle C. Armour in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
Restricted access

Abstract

Recent studies have shown that the change in poleward energy transport under global warming is well approximated by downgradient transport of near-surface moist static energy (MSE) modulated by the spatial pattern of radiative forcing, feedbacks, and ocean heat uptake. Here we explore the implications of downgradient MSE transport for changes in the vertically integrated moisture flux and thus the zonal-mean pattern of evaporation minus precipitation (E − P). Using a conventional energy balance model that we have modified to represent the Hadley cell, we find that downgradient MSE transport implies changes in E − P that mirror those simulated by comprehensive global climate models (GCMs), including a poleward expansion of the subtropical belt where E > P, and a poleward shift in the extratropical minimum of E − P associated with the storm tracks. The surface energy budget imposes further constraints on E and P independently: E increases almost everywhere, with relatively little spatial variability, while P must increase in the deep tropics, decrease in the subtropics, and increase in middle and high latitudes. Variations in the spatial pattern of radiative forcing, feedbacks, and ocean heat uptake across GCMs modulate these basic features, accounting for much of the model spread in the zonal-mean response of E and P to climate change. Thus, the principle of downgradient energy transport appears to provide a simple explanation for the basic structure of hydrologic cycle changes in GCM simulations of global warming.

© 2018 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: Nicholas Siler, nick.siler@oregonstate.edu

Abstract

Recent studies have shown that the change in poleward energy transport under global warming is well approximated by downgradient transport of near-surface moist static energy (MSE) modulated by the spatial pattern of radiative forcing, feedbacks, and ocean heat uptake. Here we explore the implications of downgradient MSE transport for changes in the vertically integrated moisture flux and thus the zonal-mean pattern of evaporation minus precipitation (E − P). Using a conventional energy balance model that we have modified to represent the Hadley cell, we find that downgradient MSE transport implies changes in E − P that mirror those simulated by comprehensive global climate models (GCMs), including a poleward expansion of the subtropical belt where E > P, and a poleward shift in the extratropical minimum of E − P associated with the storm tracks. The surface energy budget imposes further constraints on E and P independently: E increases almost everywhere, with relatively little spatial variability, while P must increase in the deep tropics, decrease in the subtropics, and increase in middle and high latitudes. Variations in the spatial pattern of radiative forcing, feedbacks, and ocean heat uptake across GCMs modulate these basic features, accounting for much of the model spread in the zonal-mean response of E and P to climate change. Thus, the principle of downgradient energy transport appears to provide a simple explanation for the basic structure of hydrologic cycle changes in GCM simulations of global warming.

© 2018 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: Nicholas Siler, nick.siler@oregonstate.edu
Save
  • Andrews, T., and M. J. Webb, 2018: The dependence of global cloud and lapse rate feedbacks on the spatial structure of tropical Pacific warming. J. Climate, 31, 641654, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-17-0087.1.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Armour, K. C., J. Marshall, J. R. Scott, A. Donohoe, and E. R. Newsom, 2016: Southern Ocean warming delayed by circumpolar upwelling and equatorward transport. Nat. Geosci., 9, 549554, https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2731.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Budyko, M. I., 1969: The effect of solar radiation variations on the climate of the Earth. Tellus, 21 (5), 611619, https://doi.org/10.3402/tellusa.v21i5.10109.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Byrne, M. P., and T. Schneider, 2016: Narrowing of the ITCZ in a warming climate: Physical mechanisms. Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, 11 35011 357, https://doi.org/10.1002/2016GL070396.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Donohoe, A., J. Marshall, D. Ferreira, and D. McGee, 2013: The relationship between ITCZ location and cross-equatorial atmospheric heat transport: From the seasonal cycle to the Last Glacial Maximum. J. Climate, 26, 35973618, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00467.1.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Donohoe, A., J. Marshall, D. Ferreira, K. Armour, and D. McGee, 2014: The interannual variability of tropical precipitation and interhemispheric energy transport. J. Climate, 27, 33773392, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00499.1.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Flannery, B. P., 1984: Energy balance models incorporating transport of thermal and latent energy. J. Atmos. Sci., 41, 414421, https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0469(1984)041<0414:EBMITO>2.0.CO;2.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Frierson, D. M. W., and Y.-T. Hwang, 2012: Extratropical influence on ITCZ shifts in slab ocean simulations of global warming. J. Climate, 25, 720733, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00116.1.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Frierson, D. M. W., I. M. Held, and P. Zurita-Gotor, 2007: A gray-radiation aquaplanet moist GCM. Part II: Energy transports in altered climates. J. Atmos. Sci., 64, 16801693, https://doi.org/10.1175/JAS3913.1.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Frierson, D. M. W., and Coauthors, 2013: Contribution of ocean overturning circulation to tropical rainfall peak in the Northern Hemisphere. Nat. Geosci., 6, 940944, https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1987.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gregory, J. M., and Coauthors, 2004: A new method for diagnosing radiative forcing and climate sensitivity. Geophys. Res. Lett., 31, L03205, https://doi.org/10.1029/2003GL018747.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hartmann, D. L., 1994: Global Physical Climatology. International Geophysics Series, Vol. 56, Academic Press, 411 pp.

  • Held, I. M., 2001: The partitioning of the poleward energy transport between the tropical ocean and atmosphere. J. Atmos. Sci., 58, 943948, https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0469(2001)058<0943:TPOTPE>2.0.CO;2.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Held, I. M., and B. J. Soden, 2006: Robust responses of the hydrological cycle to global warming. J. Climate, 19, 56865699, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI3990.1.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hill, S. A., Y. Ming, and I. M. Held, 2015: Mechanisms of forced tropical meridional energy flux change. J. Climate, 28, 17251742, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00165.1.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hwang, Y.-T., and D. M. W. Frierson, 2010: Increasing atmospheric poleward energy transport with global warming. Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L24807, https://doi.org/10.1029/2010GL045440; Corrigendum, 38, L09801, https://doi.org/10.1029/2011GL047604.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hwang, Y.-T., and D. M. W. Frierson, 2013: Link between the double-intertropical convergence zone problem and cloud biases over the Southern Ocean. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 110, 49354940, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1213302110.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hwang, Y.-T., D. M. W. Frierson, and S. M. Kang, 2013: Anthropogenic sulfate aerosol and the southward shift of tropical precipitation in the late 20th century. Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, 28452850, https://doi.org/10.1002/grl.50502.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kang, S. M., I. M. Held, D. M. W. Frierson, and M. Zhao, 2008: The response of the ITCZ to extratropical thermal forcing: Idealized slab-ocean experiments with a GCM. J. Climate, 21, 35213532, https://doi.org/10.1175/2007JCLI2146.1.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lu, J., G. A. Vecchi, and T. Reichler, 2007: Expansion of the Hadley cell under global warming. Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L06805, https://doi.org/10.1029/2006GL028443; Corrigendum, 34, L14808, https://doi.org/10.1029/2007GL030931.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lu, J., G. Chen, and D. M. W. Frierson, 2010: The position of the midlatitude storm track and eddy-driven westerlies in aquaplanet AGCMs. J. Atmos. Sci., 67, 39844000, https://doi.org/10.1175/2010JAS3477.1.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marshall, J., A. Donohoe, D. Ferreira, and D. McGee, 2014: The ocean’s role in setting the mean position of the inter-tropical convergence zone. Climate Dyn., 42, 19671979, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-013-1767-z.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marshall, J., J. R. Scott, K. C. Armour, J.-M. Campin, M. Kelley, and A. Romanou, 2015: The ocean’s role in the transient response of climate to abrupt greenhouse gas forcing. Climate Dyn., 44, 22872299, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-014-2308-0.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mbengue, C., and T. Schneider, 2017: Storm-track shifts under climate change: Toward a mechanistic understanding using baroclinic mean available potential energy. J. Atmos. Sci., 74, 93110, https://doi.org/10.1175/JAS-D-15-0267.1.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mbengue, C., and T. Schneider, 2018: Linking Hadley circulation and storm tracks in a conceptual model of the atmospheric energy balance. J. Atmos. Sci., 75, 841856, https://doi.org/10.1175/JAS-D-17-0098.1.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Merlis, T. M., T. Schneider, S. Bordoni, and I. Eisenman, 2013: Hadley circulation response to orbital precession. Part I: Aquaplanets. J. Climate, 26, 740753, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00716.1.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Monteith, J. L., 1981: Evaporation and surface temperature. Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc., 107, 127, https://doi.org/10.1002/qj.49710745102.

  • Neelin, J. D., and I. M. Held, 1987: Modeling tropical convergence based on the moist static energy budget. Mon. Wea. Rev., 115, 312, https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0493(1987)115<0003:MTCBOT>2.0.CO;2.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • North, G. R., 1975: Theory of energy-balance climate models. J. Atmos. Sci., 32, 20332043, https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0469(1975)032<2033:TOEBCM>2.0.CO;2.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Peixoto, J., and A. H. Oort, 1996: The climatology of relative humidity in the atmosphere. J. Climate, 9, 34433463, https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0442(1996)009<3443:TCORHI>2.0.CO;2.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Penman, H. L., 1948: Natural evaporation from open water, bare soil and grass. Proc. Roy. Soc. London, 193, 120145, https://doi.org/10.1098/rspa.1948.0037.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pierrehumbert, R. T., 2010: Principles of Planetary Climate. Cambridge University Press, 652 pp.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Po-Chedley, S., K. C. Armour, C. M. Bitz, M. D. Zelinka, B. D. Santer, and Q. Fu, 2018: Sources of intermodel spread in the lapse rate and water vapor feedbacks. J. Climate, 31, 31873206, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-17-0674.1.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Roe, G. H., N. Feldl, K. C. Armour, Y.-T. Hwang, and D. M. W. Frierson, 2015: The remote impacts of climate feedbacks on regional climate predictability. Nat. Geosci., 8, 135139, https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2346.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rose, B. E. J., K. C. Armour, D. S. Battisti, N. Feldl, and D. D. B. Koll, 2014: The dependence of transient climate sensitivity and radiative feedbacks on the spatial pattern of ocean heat uptake. Geophys. Res. Lett., 41, 10711078, https://doi.org/10.1002/2013GL058955.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Scheff, J., and D. Frierson, 2012: Twenty-first-century multimodel subtropical precipitation declines are mostly midlatitude shifts. J. Climate, 25, 43304347, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00393.1.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sellers, W. D., 1969: A global climatic model based on the energy balance of the earth-atmosphere system. J. Appl. Meteor., 8, 392400, https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0450(1969)008<0392:AGCMBO>2.0.CO;2.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Siler, N., G. H. Roe, K. C. Armour, and N. Feldl, 2018: Revisiting the surface-energy-flux perspective on the sensitivity of global precipitation to climate change. Climate Dyn., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-018-4359-0, in press.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Tandon, N. F., E. P. Gerber, A. H. Sobel, and L. M. Polvani, 2013: Understanding Hadley cell expansion versus contraction: Insights from simplified models and implications for recent observations. J. Climate, 26, 43044321, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00598.1.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 1458 454 50
PDF Downloads 1288 356 37