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Luca Famooss Paolini
,
Nour-Eddine Omrani
,
Alessio Bellucci
,
Panos J. Athanasiadis
,
Paolo Ruggieri
,
Casey R. Patrizio
, and
Noel Keenlyside

Abstract

The interaction between the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the latitudinal shifts of the Gulf Stream sea surface temperature front (GSF) has been the subject of extensive investigations. There are indications of nonstationarity in this interaction, but differences in the methodologies used in previous studies make it difficult to draw consistent conclusions. Furthermore, there is a lack of consensus on the key mechanisms underlying the response of the GSF to the NAO. This study assesses the possible nonstationarity in the NAO–GSF interaction and the mechanisms underlying this interaction during 1950–2020, using reanalysis data. Results show that the NAO and GSF indices covary on the decadal time scale but only during 1972–2018. A secondary peak in the NAO–GSF covariability emerges on multiannual time scales but only during 2005–15. The nonstationarity in the decadal NAO–GSF covariability is also manifested in variations in their lead–lag relationship. Indeed, the NAO tends to lead the GSF shifts by 3 years during 1972–90 and by 2 years during 1990–2018. The response of the GSF to the NAO at the decadal time scale can be interpreted as the joint effect of the fast response of wind-driven oceanic circulation, the response of deep oceanic circulation, and the propagation of Rossby waves. However, there is evidence of Rossby wave propagation only during 1972–90. Here it is suggested that the nonstationarity of Rossby wave propagation caused the time lag between the NAO and the GSF shifts on the decadal time scale to differ between the two time periods.

Open access
A. P. Williams
,
K. J. Anchukaitis
, and
A. M. Varuolo-Clarke

Abstract

Cool-season (November–March) precipitation contributes critically to California’s water resources and flood risk. In the Sierra Nevada, approximately half of cool-season precipitation is derived from a small proportion of storms classified as atmospheric rivers (ARs). The frequency and intensity of ARs are highly variable from year to year and unreliable climate teleconnections limit forecasting. However, previous research provides intriguing evidence of cycles with biennial (2.2 years) and decadal (10–20 years) periodicities in Sierra Nevada cool-season precipitation, suggesting it is not purely stochastic. To identify the source of this cyclicity, we decompose daily precipitation records (1949–2022) into contributions from ARs versus non-ARs, as well as into variations in frequency and intensity. We find that the biennial and decadal spectral peaks in Sierra Nevada precipitation totals are entirely due to precipitation delivered by ARs, and primarily due to variations in the frequency of days with AR precipitation. While total non-AR precipitation correlates with sea surface temperature (SST) and atmospheric pressure patterns associated with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, AR precipitation shows no consistent remote teleconnections at any periodicity. Supporting this finding, atmospheric simulations forced by observed SSTs do not reproduce the biennial or decadal precipitation variations identified in observations. These results, combined with the lack of long-term stable cycles in previously published tree-ring reconstructions, suggest that the observed biennial and decadal quasi-cyclicity in Sierra Nevada precipitation is unreliable as a forecasting tool.

Significance Statement

In California’s Sierra Nevada, where most of the state’s above-ground water resources originate, cool-season precipitation totals exhibited year-to-year and decadal cyclicity over the past century. Long-range forecasts are notoriously unskillful in this region, so nonrandom cycles would be intriguing to water managers challenged to simultaneously minimize flood and drought risk. Over 1949–2022, precipitation cycles were driven by variations in the number of atmospheric river (AR) storms per year even though ARs account for just half of total precipitation. These findings bring us a step closer to understanding the causes of precipitation cyclicity, but we find no evidence that the cycles were underpinned by larger-scale ocean–atmosphere circulations so we caution against relying on continued cycles into the future.

Open access
Xuanwen Zhang
,
Bingyi Wu
, and
Shuoyi Ding

Abstract

This study investigates dominant features of the atmospheric circulation evolution associated with extreme heat waves (HWs) in Russia during the summers of 2010 and 2016, respectively, and their possible association with Arctic sea ice loss. Results show that a region of Russia (20°–70°E, 45°–65°N) experienced a lasting 44-day HW event from 4 July to 16 August 2010 and a 26-day HW event from 2 to 27 August 2016. The associated atmospheric circulation anomalies are characterized by the summer Arctic cold anomaly in the mid- to low troposphere and an anticyclonic circulation anomaly over the Ural Mountains. Simulation experiments forced by summer Arctic sea ice anomalies reproduce the major characteristics of observational associations. Observations and numerical simulations indicate that summer Arctic sea ice anomaly is conducive to the formation of the summer Arctic cold anomaly, which is often accompanied by the enhanced baroclinicity in most of the Arctic troposphere and increased and decreased meridional temperature gradient in the high and midlatitudes, respectively. Such a configuration strengthens westerly winds over most of the Arctic and weakens zonal westerly over the southern Ural Mountains. This anomalous zonal wind pattern establishes the background conditions for the sustained positive geopotential height anomaly in the mid- to low troposphere that dynamically facilitates the prevalence of Russian HW events. Moreover, when compared with 2016, the weaker meridional potential vorticity gradient anomaly in the summer of 2010 prolonged the persistence of Ural blocking, which may lead to longer HW events in Russia.

Restricted access
Guocan Wu
,
Pengfei Lv
,
Yuna Mao
, and
Kaicun Wang

Abstract

The temporal distribution of precipitation is of great importance in water availability and the hydrological cycle. Existing studies, directly comparing observed and simulated precipitation amount and intensity over different temporal intervals, show that reanalyses overestimate precipitation frequency and underestimate precipitation intensity, and therefore cannot characterize extreme precipitations. In this study, relative values of precipitation (i.e., the cumulative fractions of precipitation on different percentiles of wettest hours or days to the annual total) were used to evaluate ERA5 over China during the warm seasons of from 1979 to 2015. We found that ERA5 well reproduced the relative values of daily precipitation to the annual total, although hourly results were less satisfied. The cumulative fractions at the hourly time scale at the 99th, 95th, and 90th percentiles were 15.2% ± 3.4%, 38.7% ± 6.6%, and 54.5% ± 7.4% for the gauge observations, and 9.0% ± 1.7%, 27.2% ± 4.0%, and 41.5% ± 5.0% for ERA5, respectively. ERA5 had excellent agreement with gauge observations at daily time scales: gauge observations were 13.0% ± 3.4%, 32.1% ± 5.1%, and 47.6% ± 5.7%, compared to 11.5% ± 3.7%, 30.7% ± 7.0%, and 46.0% ± 8.8% for ERA5, respectively. This difference was mainly due to the high frequency of hourly precipitation in the reanalyses, which were cancelled out at the daily scale. Gauge observations at the hourly scale showed an increase cumulative fraction at the 99th, 95th, and 90th percentiles (0.07% ± 0.03% decade−1, 0.15% ± 0.03% decade−1, and 0.17% ± 0.03% decade−1, respectively) from 1979 to 2015, but did not show an obvious trend at the daily scale. These tendencies were underestimated at the hourly scale but overestimated at the daily scale in ERA5. The results helped us to characterize the temporal distributions and variations of precipitation, and to deepen our understanding of hydrological processes and reanalyses performance.

Restricted access
Grace Kortum
,
Gabriel A. Vecchi
,
Tsung-Lin Hsieh
, and
Wenchang Yang

Abstract

This study investigates the relative roles of sea surface temperature–forced climate changes and weather variability in driving the observed eastward shift of Atlantic hurricane tracks over the period from 1970 to 2021. A 10-member initial condition ensemble with a ∼25-km horizontal resolution tropical cyclone permitting atmospheric model (GFDL AM2.5-C360) with identical sea surface temperature and radiative forcing time series was analyzed in conjunction with historical hurricane track observations. While a frequency increase was recovered by all the simulations, the observed multidecadal eastward shift in tracks was not robust across the ensemble members, indicating that it included a substantial contribution from weather-scale variability. A statistical model was developed to simulate expected storm tracks based on genesis location and steering flow, and it was used to conduct experiments testing the roles of changing genesis location and changing steering flow in producing the multidecadal weather-driven shifts in storm tracks. These experiments indicated that shifts in genesis location were a substantially larger driver of these multidecadal track changes than changes in steering flow. The substantial impact of weather on tracks indicates that there may be limited predictability for multidecadal track changes like those observed, although basinwide frequency has greater potential for prediction. Additionally, understanding changes in genesis location appears essential to understanding changes in track location.

Significance Statement

From the 1970s to the present, there has been an increase in the frequency of North Atlantic hurricanes, but they have also shifted in location to the east, away from land. We explore whether this shift in hurricanes’ locations was caused by climatic factors or randomness to understand if and how these trends will persist. We also consider whether the shift was due to a change in where hurricanes started or how they moved over their lifespan. Analyzing data from observed and simulated hurricanes, we find that the shift was made more likely by climate factors, but ultimately occurred due to random variability in the hurricanes’ starting locations. These results suggest a higher uncertainty in the future location and impact of hurricanes and highlight the importance of studying why hurricanes originate where they do.

Open access
Kevin Boyd
and
Zhuo Wang

Abstract

The link between weather regimes (WRs) and polar low (PL) activity is examined over the North Atlantic and North Pacific basins. Compared to earlier studies based on limited, regional PL datasets, our study conducts a more complete evaluation of regional WR–PL relationships using an expanded PL climatology. Our findings show that PL activity is increased over the Norwegian and Barents Seas during the Atlantic ridge regime and decreased over the former region during the Scandinavian blocking regime, with negative impacts also stretching to the Irminger Sea. Over the Labrador and Irminger Seas, PL activity is modulated strongest by the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), with positive impacts during the positive phase and vice versa. Over the North Pacific, the Arctic low contributes to increased PL activity over most regions, while the opposite is true for the Pacific wave train regime. The variability of PL activity associated with WRs is strongly related to changes in key environmental conditions. In general, regions of enhanced (reduced) PL activity are coincident with anomalous low-level northerly (southerly) flow and reduced (increased) static stability. Further analysis shows that certain persistent WRs can strongly modulate PL activity over some regions, either due to the amplification or propagation of favorable or unfavorable conditions, which cautions the limitation of regarding WRs as stationary patterns. A previously developed PL genesis potential index is shown to represent the observed impacts well, which serves to confirm the robustness of our findings and suggests the potential applicability of WRs to the subseasonal prediction of PLs.

Significance Statement

Polar lows are intense small-scale (∼300 km) cyclones that form over high-latitude oceanic regions. The hazardous impacts they pose to coastal communities and maritime and air operations in the Arctic motivate their skillful prediction, which remains a major challenge at lead times beyond a few days. In this study, we relate PLs and the key environmental conditions that favor their development to weather regimes, which are recurrent large-scale circulation patterns that can persist for weeks at a time. We find that weather regimes have strong impacts on polar low activity through the modulation of key environmental conditions. These relationships can potentially be utilized in the extended-range prediction of polar lows.

Restricted access
Paul Edwin Curtis
and
Alexey V. Fedorov

Abstract

The present-day deep ocean global meridional overturning circulation is dominated by the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), with dense water sinking in the high-latitude North Atlantic Ocean. In contrast, deep-water formation in the subarctic North Pacific is inhibited by a strong upper-ocean halocline, which prevents the development of an analogous Pacific meridional overturning circulation (PMOC). Nevertheless, paleoclimate evidence suggests that a PMOC with deep-water formation in the North Pacific was active, for instance, during the warm Pliocene epoch and possibly during the most recent deglaciation. In the present study, we describe a spontaneous activation of the PMOC in a multimillennial abrupt 4 × CO2 experiment using one of the configurations of the Community Earth System Model (CESM1). Soon after the imposed CO2 increase, the model’s AMOC collapses and remains in a weakened state for several thousand years. The PMOC emerges after some 2500 years of integration, persists for about 1000 years, reaching nearly 10 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1), but eventually declines to about 5 Sv. The PMOC decline follows the AMOC recovery in the model, consistent with an Atlantic–Pacific interbasin seesaw. The PMOC activation relies on two factors: (i) gradual warming and freshening of the North Pacific deep ocean, which reduces ocean vertical stratification on millennial time scales, and (ii) upper-ocean salinity increase in the subarctic North Pacific over several centuries, followed by a rapid erosion of the pycnocline and activation of deep-water formation. Ultimately, our results provide insights on the characteristics of global ocean overturning in warm climates.

Restricted access
Tyler Cox
,
Aaron Donohoe
,
Kyle C. Armour
,
Dargan M. W. Frierson
, and
Gerard H. Roe

Abstract

We investigate the linear trends in meridional atmospheric heat transport (AHT) since 1980 in atmospheric reanalysis datasets, coupled climate models, and atmosphere-only climate models forced with historical sea surface temperatures. Trends in AHT are decomposed into contributions from three components of circulation: (i) transient eddies, (ii) stationary eddies, and (iii) the mean meridional circulation. All reanalyses and models agree on the pattern of AHT trends in the Southern Ocean, providing confidence in the trends in this region. There are robust increases in transient-eddy AHT magnitude in the Southern Ocean in the reanalyses, which are well replicated by the atmosphere-only models, while coupled models show smaller magnitude trends. This suggests that the pattern of sea surface temperature trends contributes to the transient-eddy AHT trends in this region. In the tropics, we find large differences between mean-meridional circulation AHT trends in models and the reanalyses, which we connect to discrepancies in tropical precipitation trends. In the Northern Hemisphere, we find less evidence of large-scale trends and more uncertainty, but note several regions with mismatches between models and the reanalyses that have dynamical explanations. Throughout this work we find strong compensation between the different components of AHT, most notably in the Southern Ocean where transient-eddy AHT trends are well compensated by trends in the mean-meridional circulation AHT, resulting in relatively small total AHT trends. This highlights the importance of considering AHT changes holistically, rather than each AHT component individually.

Restricted access
Tong Li
,
Xuebin Zhang
, and
Zhihong Jiang

Abstract

Weighting models according to their performance has been used to produce multimodel climate change projections. But the added value of model weighting for future projection is not always examined. Here we apply an imperfect model framework to evaluate the added value of model weighting in projecting summer temperature changes over China. Members of large-ensemble simulations by three climate models of different climate sensitivities are used as pseudo-observations for the past and the future. Performance of the models participating in the phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) are evaluated against the pseudo-observations based on simulated historical climatology and trends in global, regional, and local temperatures to determine the model weights for future projection. The weighted projections are then compared with the pseudo-observations in the future period. We find that regional trend as a metric of model performance yields generally better skill for future projection, while past climatology as performance metric does not lead to a significant improvement to projection. Trend at the grid-box scale is also not a good performance indicator as small-scale trend is highly uncertain. For the model weighting to be effective, the metric for evaluating the model’s performance must be relatable to future changes, with the response signal separable from internal variability. Projected summer warming based on model weighting is similar to that of unweighted projection but the 5th–95th-percentile uncertainty range of the weighted projection is 38% smaller with the reduction mainly in the upper bound, with the largest reduction appearing in southeast China.

Open access
Chenyu Lv
,
Riyu Lu
, and
Wei Chen

Abstract

This study identifies a significantly positive relationship between summer surface air temperature (SAT) anomalies over two remote regions in the Eurasian continent and North America during the period 1979–2021 on the interannual time scale. The former region includes the East European Plain and the West Siberian Plain, and the latter region includes central and eastern North America. The regionally averaged summer SAT anomalies show a correlation coefficient of 0.66 between these two regions, which is significant at the 99% confidence level. This intercontinental SAT relationship can be explained by a wavelike pattern of circulation anomalies, which is the leading mode of upper-tropospheric circulation anomalies over the middle and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere in summer. Further analysis suggests that the sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies over the Pacific and North Atlantic in the preceding spring, being coupled with the leading mode of atmospheric circulation anomalies over the Pacific–Atlantic sector, persist into summer and affect the SATs in the two remote regions, resulting in the intercontinental SAT connection.

Significance Statement

Summer surface air temperature (SAT) has profound effects on public health and agricultural production. Here we find a significantly positive relationship between interannual variations of summer SATs over two remote regions, one in the Eurasian continent and the other in North America. This intercontinental relationship in SATs can be explained as a result of atmosphere–ocean coupling over the Pacific and North Atlantic in the preceding spring. The result is likely to be a critical implication for the seasonal forecast of SAT variations over the two regions. In addition, the concurrence of higher or lower temperatures in these two regions may have impacts on global grain production, since these two regions include many major grain-producing areas in the world.

Restricted access