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Margo S. Andrews
,
Vittorio A. Gensini
,
Alex M. Haberlie
,
Walker S. Ashley
,
Allison C. Michaelis
, and
Mateusz Taszarek

Abstract

Elevated mixed layers (EMLs) influence the severe convective storm climatology in the contiguous United States (CONUS), playing an important role in the initiation, sustenance, and suppression of storms. This study creates a high-resolution climatology of the EML to analyze variability and potential changes in EML frequency and characteristics for the first time. An objective algorithm is applied to ERA5 to detect EMLs, defined in part as layers of steep lapse rates (≥8.0°C km−1) at least 200 hPa thick, in the CONUS and northern Mexico from 1979 to 2021. EMLs are most frequent over the Great Plains in spring and summer, with a standard deviation of 4–10 EML days per year highlighting sizable interannual variability. Mean convective inhibition associated with the EML’s capping inversion suggests many EMLs prohibit convection, although—like nearly all EML characteristics—there is considerable spread and notable seasonal variability. In the High Plains, statistically significant increases in EML days (4–5 more days per decade) coincide with warmer EML bases and steeper EML lapse rates, driven by warming and drying in the low levels of the western CONUS during the study period. Additionally, increases in EML base temperatures result in significantly more EML-related convective inhibition over the Great Plains, which may continue to have implications for convective storm frequency, intensity, severe perils, and precipitation if this trend persists.

Significance Statement

Elevated mixed layers (EMLs) play a role in the spatiotemporal frequency of severe convective storms and precipitation across the contiguous United States and northern Mexico. This research creates a detailed EML climatology from a modern reanalysis dataset to uncover patterns and potential changes in EML frequency and associated meteorological characteristics. EMLs are most common over the Great Plains in spring and summer, but show significant variability year-to-year. Robust increases in the number of days with EMLs have occurred since 1979 across the High Plains. Lapse rates associated with EMLs have trended steeper, in part due to warmer EML base temperatures. This has resulted in increasing EML convective inhibition, which has important implications for regional climate.

Open access
Michael D. Eabry
,
Rishav Goyal
,
Andréa S. Taschetto
,
Will Hobbs
, and
Alex Sen Gupta

Abstract

Large-scale modes of atmospheric variability in the southern midlatitudes can influence Antarctic sea ice concentrations (SIC) via diverse processes. For instance, variability in both the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) and zonal wave 3 (ZW3) have been linked to the abrupt 2015/16 sea ice decline. While SIC responses to each of SAM and ZW3 have been examined previously, their interaction and synchronous impact on Antarctic sea ice has not. Here, we investigate SAM/ZW3 interactions and their associated combined impacts on Antarctic sea ice using a 1200-yr simulation from a state-of-the-art climate model. Our results suggest that zonal wind anomalies associated with SAM drive SIC anomalies in the marginal ice-zone via advection of ice normal to the ice edge and Ekman drift. In contrast, meridional wind anomalies associated with ZW3 can have opposing dynamic and thermodynamic effects on SIC. Both SAM- and ZW3-related SIC anomalies propagate eastward, likely by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The interaction of SAM and ZW3 leads to interesting regional SIC responses. During negative SAM, ZW3-associated meridional wind anomalies across western Antarctica are closer to the ice edge and have a stronger impact on sea ice overall. ZW3 phase affects meridional wind anomalies across the whole ice edge, whereas it affects SIC anomalies mainly over western Antarctica. In parts of eastern Antarctica, SIC anomalies are less sensitive to ZW3 phase, but are sensitive to SAM, particularly in locations where the ice edge has a prominent angle relative to the SAM-related zonal wind anomalies.

Significance Statement

The Southern Annular Mode (SAM) and zonal wave 3 (ZW3) are large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns affecting midlatitude east–west and north–south winds, respectively, over the Southern Ocean. Variations in winds can affect sea ice formation, which can feed back to influence Southern Hemisphere climate. We examine how variations in SAM and ZW3 affect Antarctic sea ice due to a combination of wind- and ocean-driven ice movement and sea ice growth or melting. Regional variations in ice concentrations are due both to alternating north–south ZW3 winds and to the interaction of SAM-related east–west winds with the ice edge. SAM and ZW3 can also interact, leading to stronger north–south wind and sea ice responses over western Antarctica when SAM-related midlatitude winds weaken.

Restricted access
Tsun Ngai Chow
,
Chi Yung Tam
,
Jilong Chen
, and
Chenxi Hu

Abstract

Assessing how global warming affects tropical cyclones (TC) is immensely important for climate change adaptation and hazard mitigation. However, projected intensity and size change can vary greatly among different individual storms, even under the same forcing in pseudo–global warming (PGW) experiments. Here we hypothesize that these variations are related to the historical environment in which each TC was embedded. Twenty-five TCs in the South China Sea (SCS) region were simulated using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model. Their changes in the near (2036–65) and far future (2075–99) following the representative concentration pathways 8.5 (RCP8.5) and 4.5 (RCP4.5) under phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) were investigated by the PGW technique. The mean changes in TC intensity and gale-force wind radius (R17) in the SCS were +6.4% and +1.5% for a 2°C warming, respectively. Multiple linear regression and stepwise regression analysis revealed that storm intensity variations were positively correlated with historical sea surface temperature and negatively with outer (i.e., outside the TC’s R17) atmospheric instability, while the R17 variations correlated positively with outer midtropospheric relative humidity (RH) and surface outer wind speed (OWS). Ertel potential vorticity (EPV) diagnostics further showed a moister SCS background can cause stronger diabatic heating and EPV production at the spiral rainbands under PGW, which increases R17. Additionally, stronger background absolute angular momentum (AAM) promoted stronger AAM influx, leading to larger R17. Implications were drawn to explain the uncertainties in projected TC intensity and size due to natural variability.

Significance Statement

Changes in the intensity and size of individual tropical cyclones in future climates are highly variable. This study aims to understand the environmental factors influencing these variations. We selected 25 storms that entered the South China Sea region and modeled them in both present and future climates. The mean intensity and size were projected to increase by 6.4% and 1.5% for a 2°C warming, respectively. We found that tropical cyclones embedded in historically warmer oceans and more stable atmospheres intensified more than the others, while historically wetter and windier environments promoted larger size growth. Our results suggest that certain tropical cyclones can exhibit a greater increase in intensity and size in a warmer climate under favorable environmental conditions.

Restricted access
Who M. Kim
,
Yohan Ruprich-Robert
,
Alcide Zhao
,
Stephen Yeager
, and
Jon Robson

Abstract

We investigate how the ocean responds to 10-yr persistent surface heat flux forcing over the subpolar North Atlantic (SPNA) associated with the observed winter NAO in three CMIP6-class coupled models. The experiments reveal a broadly consistent ocean response to the imposed NAO forcing. Positive NAO forcing produces anomalously dense water masses in the SPNA, increasing the southward lower (denser) limb of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) in density coordinates. The southward propagation of the anomalous dense water generates a zonal pressure gradient overlying the models’ North Atlantic Current that enhances the upper (lighter) limb of the density-space AMOC, increasing the heat and salt transport into the SPNA. However, the amplitude of the thermohaline process response differs substantially between the models. Intriguingly, the anomalous dense-water formation is not primarily driven directly by the imposed flux anomalies, but rather dominated by changes in isopycnal outcropping area and associated changes in surface water mass transformation (WMT) due to the background surface heat fluxes. The forcing initially alters the outcropping area in dense-water formation regions, but WMT due to the background surface heat fluxes through anomalous outcropping area decisively controls the total dense-water formation response and can explain the intermodel amplitude difference. Our study suggests that coupled models can simulate consistent mechanisms and spatial patterns of decadal SPNA variability when forced with the same anomalous buoyancy fluxes, but the amplitude of the response depends on the background states of the models.

Restricted access
Yuwei Xie
,
Wenjun Zhang
,
Suqiong Hu
, and
Feng Jiang

Abstract

Sea surface temperature (SST) variability in the East China Sea–Kuroshio (EK) region has important implications for the surrounding weather, climate, and marine ecology. The year-to-year variations of the EK SST are expectedly linked to El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the predominant predictability source of seasonal-to-interannual climate variability. Surprisingly, no significant SST signal is observed in the EK region when focusing on the ENSO autumn–winter season with the persistent and pronounced SST anomalies in the tropical Pacific. We find that a remarkable seasonal reversal appears in the ENSO–EK SST connection, shifting from a negative relationship in autumn [Aug(0)–Oct(0)] to a positive relationship in winter [Dec(0)–Feb(1)]. This reversal is mainly attributed to the seasonally varying ENSO-associated western North Pacific (WNP) atmospheric circulation patterns. During ENSO autumns, the anomalous WNP anticyclone is confined south of 20°N, which is accompanied with cyclonic circulation anomalies in the EK region. The associated anomalous northerly wind tends to enhance the background northerly wind, thereby facilitating the local SST cooling mainly via the wind–evaporation–SST effect. In the subsequent winter, the ENSO-related WNP anticyclonic anomalies intensify and extend toward the EK region. Consequently, the weakened background northerly wind induced by southerly wind anomalies leads to the increase of downward latent and sensible heat flux in the EK region, fostering the local SST warming. The observed seasonal reversal of ENSO impacts can be evidenced by the tropical Pacific pacemaker experiments, emphasizing the importance of seasonally modulated ENSO teleconnection and holding implications for the local SST climate prediction.

Open access
Michael Weylandt
and
Laura P. Swiler

Abstract

Dimension reduction techniques are an essential part of the climate analyst’s toolkit. Due to the enormous scale of climate data, dimension reduction methods are used to identify major patterns of variability within climate dynamics, to create compelling and informative visualizations, and to quantify major named modes such as El Niño–Southern Oscillation. Principal components analysis (PCA), also known as the method of empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs), is the most commonly used form of dimension reduction, characterized by a remarkable confluence of attractive mathematical, statistical, and computational properties. Despite its ubiquity, PCA suffers from several difficulties relevant to climate science: high computational burden with large datasets, decreased statistical accuracy in high dimensions, and difficulties comparing across multiple datasets. In this paper, we introduce several variants of PCA that are likely to be of use in climate sciences and address these problems. Specifically, we introduce non-negative, sparse, and tensor PCA and demonstrate how each approach provides superior pattern recognition in climate data. We also discuss approaches to comparing PCA-family results within and across datasets in a domain-relevant manner. We demonstrate these approaches through an analysis of several runs of the E3SM climate model from 1991 to 1995, focusing on the simulated response to the Mt. Pinatubo eruption; our findings are consistent with a recently identified stratospheric warming fingerprint associated with this type of stratospheric aerosol injection.

Restricted access
Dingwen Zeng
and
Xing Yuan

Abstract

Anomalies in atmospheric moisture transport are critical for drought formation, with East Asian monsoon anomalies identified as the primary driver of droughts in East Asia. However, the drought mechanism for the border region between monsoon and nonmonsoon land areas remains unclear due to complex interactions between latitudinal circulation patterns. Using a Lagrangian framework, we quantify moisture supply (MS) during spring and summer drought events within the border region, specifically Northeast China (NEC). Our results reveal that decreased MS from monsoon land areas is more crucial than nonmonsoon land areas and local areas for NEC droughts, with the local water recycling playing a more substantial role in summer than in spring. On average, summer droughts are 4 times more intense than spring droughts. Contributions to MS deficits from monsoon land areas, nonmonsoon land areas, and local areas during spring (summer) droughts are 43.2% (43.8%), 25.1% (19.2%), and 22% (33.8%), respectively. The weakened atmospheric circulation from source regions to NEC contributes to over 80% of MS deficits during droughts. Atmospheric wave trains triggered by North Atlantic sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTA) gradients, along with the weakening of the East Asian subtropical westerly jet in spring and a positive phase of the polar–Eurasian teleconnection in summer, contribute to spring and summer droughts, respectively. A sustained, record-breaking positive SSTA along the western European coast from the spring to summer excited a wave train, and resulted in the extreme 2017 spring–summer drought. These findings provide valuable insights into the drought mechanism within the interaction zone of circulation systems from different latitudes.

Significance Statement

The complex interactions between atmospheric circulation patterns at different latitudes have led to an insufficient understanding of the mechanisms causing extreme drought in the border region between the monsoon and nonmonsoon land areas. This study aims to investigate the drought mechanisms in the border region from the perspective of moisture tracking. Results indicate a moisture supply deficit from the monsoon region contributes the most (approximately half) to droughts, although the majority of air parcels reaching this region originate from the nonmonsoon region. The weakening of circulation contributes to more than 80% of the moisture supply deficit during droughts, far exceeding the impact of reduced evaporation from the moisture source regions. These findings are conducive to understanding the mechanisms of extreme drought.

Restricted access
Quentin Nicolas
and
William R. Boos

Abstract

Mechanical forcing by orography affects precipitating convection across many tropical regions, but controls on the intensity and horizontal extent of the orographic precipitation peak and rain shadow remain poorly understood. A recent theory explains this control of precipitation as arising from modulation of lower-tropospheric temperature and moisture by orographic mechanical forcing, setting the distribution of convective rainfall by controlling parcel buoyancy. Using satellite and reanalysis data, we evaluate this theory by investigating spatiotemporal precipitation variations in six mountainous tropical regions spanning South and Southeast Asia, and the Maritime Continent. We show that a strong relationship holds in these regions between daily precipitation and a measure of convective plume buoyancy. This measure depends on boundary layer thermodynamic properties and lower-free-tropospheric moisture and temperature. Consistent with the theory, temporal variations in lower-free-tropospheric temperature are primarily modulated by orographic mechanical lifting through changes in cross-slope wind speed. However, winds directed along background horizontal moisture gradients also influence lower-tropospheric moisture variations in some regions. The buoyancy measure is also shown to explain many aspects of the spatial patterns of precipitation. Finally, we present a linear model with two horizontal dimensions that combines mountain wave dynamics with a linearized closure exploiting the relationship between precipitation and plume buoyancy. In some regions, this model skillfully captures the spatial structure and intensity of rainfall; it underestimates rainfall in regions where time-mean ascent in large-scale convergence zones shapes lower-tropospheric humidity. Overall, these results provide new understanding of fundamental processes controlling subseasonal and spatial variations in tropical orographic precipitation.

Restricted access
Qingyuan Wu
,
Qingquan Li
,
Xiaoming Hu
, and
Xiaoting Sun

Abstract

Using the ERA5 reanalysis data and the Climate Feedback Response Analysis Method (CFRAM), we attribute the mechanism of summer upper-tropospheric temperature (UTT) variations in the South Asian summer monsoon (SASM) region to several external forcing and internal feedback processes. The summer UTT in the SASM region is dominated by two modes. The first empirical orthogonal function (EOF) mode (EOF1) is a monopolar warming pattern, and the second EOF mode (EOF2) shows a meridional dipole pattern. CFRAM results show that summer UTT anomalies are mainly attributed to cloud feedback and nonradiative processes of atmospheric dynamics (ATD) and surface-related processes. For EOF1, ocean heat storage and partial cloud feedback processes contribute most UTT anomalies over the Indian Ocean. The ATD increases the UTT over East Asia through the adiabatic warming caused by anomalous anticyclone in the upper troposphere. The formation of EOF2 is closely linked to the ATD, while the cloud process partially compensates for the excessive changes in UTT caused by the ATD. The South Asian high and its circulation in the midlatitude region are significantly enhanced. The anomalous anticyclone over northern East Asia along with the anomalous easterly wind on the south side of the South Asian high favors increased warm advection and adiabatic heating, contributing to the warming of UTT. Meanwhile, adiabatic cooling resulting from the atmospheric ascent in the middle and upper troposphere leads to UTT cooling over the Indian Ocean. The quantitative attribution of UTT has great implications for better understanding future SASM variation.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this study is to understand the physical mechanisms of upper-tropospheric temperature (UTT) changes in the South Asian summer monsoon (SASM). Although previous studies have examined temperature variation from the perspective of atmospheric circulation, there has been limited investigation into the influence of various feedback processes. Our study reveals that the summer UTT in the SASM region is dominated by monopolar and meridional dipole modes. Utilizing a climate feedback–response analysis method, we attribute the UTT anomalies in the SASM region to the cloud feedback, oceanic heat storage, and atmospheric dynamics processes, and explore the physical mechanisms of their effects. These results have important implications for the better prediction of monsoon variability.

Restricted access
Zhuoyi Li
,
Qing Yang
,
Zhuguo Ma
,
Peili Wu
,
Yawen Duan
,
Mingxing Li
, and
Ziyan Zheng

Abstract

In China, the topography, climate, ecology, hydrology, and human environment vary greatly from southeast to northwest, and a typical natural and social environmental transition zone (i.e., comprehensive transition zone) exists near the “Hu Huanyong line,” which is a famous demographic dividing line in China, known as the Hu zone. Dry and wet climate changes in the Hu zone can have a significant impact on terrestrial ecosystems and hydrological conditions, ultimately affecting human–land relations. However, there is still a lack of clear understanding of environmental changes in the context of climate change in the Hu zone. Here, a quantitative analysis of climate change and its impacts on terrestrial hydrology and ecosystems from 1951 to 2020 is presented. The results showed that there exists a significant drying trend in the Hu zone and a dramatic decrease in terrestrial water storage (TWS), indicating that the environment has become worse. Conversely, from the perspective of significant greening, the environment has improved. This contradiction is mainly due to climate change dominating the depletion of TWS, while the increase in vegetation greenness is more driven by human activities including agricultural management and ecological restoration, offsetting to some extent the negative impact of water scarcity on vegetation growth.

Significance Statement

The Hu zone is a transition zone between southeast and northwest China, which is a sensitive area under climate change as well as key region for coordinated development. The purpose of this study is to reveal the long-term climate change in the Hu zone and its impacts on hydrology and ecology. Our results indicate a significant drying trend in this zone over the last 70 years, which led to a substantial reduction in water storage. However, the vegetation coverage increased due to human activities. This study provides guidance for agricultural structure adjustment and ecological protection in transition zones. Future research should focus more on the assessment and risk management of dry/wet changes in climate transition areas around the world.

Open access