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Exploiting the Abrupt 4 × CO2 Scenario to Elucidate Tropical Expansion Mechanisms

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  • 1 Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Columbia University, New York, New York
  • | 2 Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, New York
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Abstract

Future emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are projected to result in significant circulation changes. One of the most important changes is the widening of the tropical belt, which has great societal impacts. Several mechanisms (changes in surface temperature, eddy phase speed, tropopause height, and static stability) have been proposed to explain this widening. However, the coupling between these mechanisms has precluded elucidating their relative importance. Here, the abrupt quadrupled-CO2 simulations of phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) are used to examine the proposed mechanisms. The different time responses of the different mechanisms allow us to disentangle and evaluate them. As suggested by earlier studies, the Hadley cell edge is found to be linked to changes in subtropical baroclinicity. In particular, its poleward shift is accompanied by an increase in subtropical static stability (i.e., a decrease in temperature lapse rate) with increased CO2 concentrations. These subtropical changes also affect the eddy momentum flux, which shifts poleward together with the Hadley cell edge. Transient changes in tropopause height, eddy phase speed, and surface temperature, however, were found not to accompany the poleward shift of the Hadley cell edge. The widening of the Hadley cell, together with the increase in moisture content, accounts for most of the expansion of the dry zone. Eddy moisture fluxes, on the other hand, are found to play a minor role in the expansion of the dry zone.

© 2019 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: Rei Chemke, rc3101@columbia.edu

Abstract

Future emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are projected to result in significant circulation changes. One of the most important changes is the widening of the tropical belt, which has great societal impacts. Several mechanisms (changes in surface temperature, eddy phase speed, tropopause height, and static stability) have been proposed to explain this widening. However, the coupling between these mechanisms has precluded elucidating their relative importance. Here, the abrupt quadrupled-CO2 simulations of phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) are used to examine the proposed mechanisms. The different time responses of the different mechanisms allow us to disentangle and evaluate them. As suggested by earlier studies, the Hadley cell edge is found to be linked to changes in subtropical baroclinicity. In particular, its poleward shift is accompanied by an increase in subtropical static stability (i.e., a decrease in temperature lapse rate) with increased CO2 concentrations. These subtropical changes also affect the eddy momentum flux, which shifts poleward together with the Hadley cell edge. Transient changes in tropopause height, eddy phase speed, and surface temperature, however, were found not to accompany the poleward shift of the Hadley cell edge. The widening of the Hadley cell, together with the increase in moisture content, accounts for most of the expansion of the dry zone. Eddy moisture fluxes, on the other hand, are found to play a minor role in the expansion of the dry zone.

© 2019 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: Rei Chemke, rc3101@columbia.edu
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