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YaoKun Li

Abstract

The ENSO phase locking to the annual cycle is investigated by applying a spatiotemporal oscillator (STO) model, in which the annual cycle of the climatological thermocline depth and its associated parameter are introduced. It is easy to derive its analytic solution, which demonstrates a harmonic oscillation of a combined variable. The ENSO phase locking can be theoretically proven by discussing the distribution of the calendar months of the peak time of the sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) time series. The calendar months of the peak time can be divided into two parts. The first part can evenly distribute in any a month of a year and hence has no phase locking feature whereas the second part, directly associated with the annual cycle, adds an increment onto the first part to make it move toward the phase of the annual cycle to realize the phase locking feature. This is the physical mechanism of the ENSO phase locking. With observed seasonal variation of the climatological thermocline depth, the Niño-3.4 index time series approach to extreme values in November was calculated with higher probability, reproducing the observed phase locking phenomenon quite well. The maximum probability of the calendar month that the ENSO peak time occurs is directly determined by the phase of the annual cycle and the stronger the annual cycle is, the larger the maximum probability is.

Significance Statement

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events tend to be strongest in the boreal wintertime. This phenomenon is called ENSO phase locking. This study investigates the dynamics of ENSO phase locking to the annual cycle by introducing the annual cycle to a spatiotemporal oscillator (STO) model that can deal with the complex spatial and temporal variations in SSTAs. The analytic solution can be obtained and then the phase locking feature can be theoretically proven and numerically testified. Therefore, the dynamics and the mechanism of ENSO phase locking can be comprehensively understood. It may be beneficial for the community to have a better understanding of this complex phenomenon.

Open access
Hamish D. Prince
and
Tristan S. L’Ecuyer

Abstract

Satellite observations reveal that decreasing surface albedo in both polar regions is increasing the absorption of solar radiation, but the disposition of this absorbed energy is fundamentally different. Fluxes of absorbed solar radiation, emitted thermal radiation, and net energy imbalances are assessed for both polar regions for the last 21 years in the Clouds and Earth’s Radiant Energy System record. Arctic absorbed solar radiation is increasing at 0.98 ± 0.69 W m−2 decade−1, consistent with the anticipated response to sea ice loss. However, Arctic thermal emission is responding at a similar rate of 0.94 ± 0.55 W m−2 decade−1. This is surprising since the radiative impact of ice loss would be expected to favor increasing solar absorption. We find however, that clouds substantially mask trends in Arctic solar absorption relative to clear sky while having only a modest impact on thermal emission trends. As a result, the Arctic net radiation imbalance has not changed over the period. Furthermore, variability of absorbed solar radiation explains two-thirds of the variability in annual thermal emission suggesting that Arctic thermal fluxes rapidly adjust to offset changes in solar absorption and re-establish equilibrium. Conversely, Antarctic thermal emission is not responding to the increasing (although not yet statistically significant) solar absorption of 0.59 ± 0.64 W m−2 decade−1 with less than a third of the annual thermal variability explained by accumulated solar absorption. The Arctic is undergoing rapid adjustment to increasing solar absorption resulting in no change to the net energy deficit, while increasing Antarctic solar absorption represents additional energy input into the Earth system.

Significance Statement

The polar regions of Earth are undergoing ice loss through ongoing global warming, reducing the ice cover and decreasing solar reflectivity, which would be expected to warm these regions. We use satellite observations to measure the trends in solar absorption and emitted thermal radiation over the Arctic and Antarctic for the last two decades. Arctic thermal emission is increasing at a compensating rate to solar absorption with a close relationship between these processes. Conversely, Antarctic thermal emission is not responding to solar absorption demonstrating that Antarctic surface temperatures are not significantly influenced by the region’s reflectivity. The Arctic is undergoing rapid adjustment to increasing solar absorption through warming, while increasing Antarctic solar absorption represents additional energy input into the Earth system.

Open access
Fouzia Fahrin
,
Alex O. Gonzalez
,
Brett Chrisler
, and
Justin P. Stachnik

Abstract

Longstanding climate model biases in tropical precipitation exist over the east Pacific (EP) Ocean, especially during boreal winter and spring when models have excessive Southern Hemisphere (SH) precipitation near the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). In this study, we document the impact of convectively coupled waves (CCWs) on EP precipitation and the ITCZ using observations and reanalyses. We focus on the months when SH precipitation peaks in observations: February–April (FMA). CCWs explain 93% of total precipitation variance in the SH, nearly double the percent (48%) of the NH during FMA. However, we note that these percentages are inflated as they inevitably include the background variance. We further investigate the three leading high-frequency wave bands: mixed Rossby–gravity waves and tropical depression–type disturbances (MRG–TD type), Kelvin waves, and n = 0 eastward inertia–gravity waves (IG0). Compared to their warm pool counterparts, these three CCWs have a more zonally elongated and meridionally narrower precipitation structure with circulations that resemble past observational studies and/or shallow water theory. We quantify the contribution of all CCWs to four different daily ITCZ “states”: Northern Hemisphere (NH) (nITCZ), SH (sITCZ), double (dITCZ), and equatorial (eITCZ) using a new precipitation-based ITCZ-state algorithm. We find that the percent of total precipitation variance explained by each of the CCWs is heightened for sITCZs and eITCZs and diminished for nITCZs. Last, we find that nITCZs are most prevalent weeks after strong CCW activity happens in the NH, whereas CCWs and sITCZs peak simultaneously in the SH.

Significance Statement

Convectively coupled atmospheric waves (CCWs) are a critical feature of tropical weather and are an important source of precipitation near the region of highest precipitation on Earth called the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). Given three decades of climate model biases in CCWs and ITCZ precipitation over the east Pacific (EP) Ocean during spring, few studies have examined the relationship between CCWs and the springtime EP ITCZ. We explored the CCWs and EP ITCZ relationship through calculations of the percent of precipitation that comes from CCWs. A significant portion of the tropical precipitation is associated with CCWs during spring. CCWs are even more impactful when the ITCZ is in the SH or on the equator, which are both problematic in climate models.

Open access
Charles Knight
and
Richard Washington

Abstract

Rainfall over the southern African tropical boundary is highly variable, particularly around the onset of the summer rains. However, understanding of the causes of variability in onset timing is poor. A lack of observational data in the region is compounded by the complexity of climate dynamics and variability at the interface of the tropics and the midlatitudes. The key to onset over the region is the Congo air boundary (CAB), a distinguishing circulation feature present in September and declining in frequency until November. The CAB is crucial to early season rainfall; precipitation is broadly inhibited when the CAB is present, while its breakdown allows large-scale rainfall and onset over central southern Africa. This work identifies a remote midlatitude influence on the timing of CAB breakdown using the high-resolution reanalysis dataset ERA5. Propagating and (upstream) breaking low-wavenumber Rossby waves in the Southern Hemisphere westerly jet are shown to be related to >70% of breakdown events. Breakdown is forced by 1) the replacement of subsidence over eastern southern Africa with synoptically forced ascent and 2) wind field modification that leads to positive 850-hPa continental convergence anomalies and enhanced moisture advection from the Congo basin and Indian Ocean. Upper-level anticyclonic vorticity tendency induced by enhanced convection slows Rossby wave propagation aloft, contributing to wave breaking and the persistence of conditions favorable to convection. The identification of this midlatitude influence on CAB breakdown reveals new potential sources of predictability for onset and demonstrates the significant equatorward extent of midlatitude influences to the tropical edge.

Significance Statement

This study aims to improve our understanding of the causes of variability in the start date of the summer rainy season in central southern Africa. The research reveals that certain upper-level waves in the Southern Hemisphere westerly jet are associated with patterns of weather that force a large-scale transition from dry pre-onset conditions to widespread rainfall in a time scale of 2–5 days, and that these waves account for a large proportion of such transitions. This finding is of interest to subseasonal weather forecasters and may help to improve the long-range forecasting of onset date.

Open access
Torben Kunz
and
Thomas Laepple

Abstract

A fundamental statistic of climate variability is its spatiotemporal correlation function. Its complex structure can be concisely summarized by a frequency-dependent measure of the effective spatial degrees of freedom (ESDOF). Here we present, for the first time, frequency-dependent ESDOF estimates of global natural surface temperature variability from purely instrumental measurements, using the HadCRUT4 dataset (1850–2014). The approach is based on a newly developed method for estimating the frequency-dependent spatial correlation function from gappy data fields. Results reveal a multicomponent structure of the spatial correlation function, including a large-amplitude short-distance component (with weak time scale dependence) and a small-amplitude long-distance component (with increasing relative amplitude toward the longer time scales). Two frequency-dependent ESDOF measures are applied, each responding mainly to either of the two components. Both measures exhibit a significant ESDOF reduction from monthly to multidecadal time scales, implying an increase of the effective spatial scale of natural surface temperature fluctuations. Moreover, it is found that a good approximation to the global number of equally spaced samples needed to estimate the variance of global mean temperature is given, at any frequency, by the greater one of the two ESDOF measures, decreasing from ∼130 at monthly to ∼30 at multidecadal time scales. Finally, the multicomponent structure of the correlation function together with the detected ESDOF scaling properties indicate that the ESDOF reduction toward the longer time scales cannot be explained simply by diffusion acting on stochastically driven anomalies, as it might be suggested from simple stochastic-diffusive energy balance models.

Open access
Hanii Takahashi
,
Catherine M. Naud
,
Derek J. Posselt
, and
George A. Duffy

Abstract

Extratropical cyclones (ETCs) produce most of the winter precipitation at midlatitudes and are often associated with the most extreme winter weather events. For climate models to accurately predict the occurrence and severity of these extreme events in a changing climate, they need to accurately represent moist processes in general and ice processes in particular. To provide an observational constraint for model evaluation, because cloud cover and precipitation are prevalent in warm-frontal regions, a compositing method is applied to ice retrievals from satellite observations to explore the ice distribution across warm fronts in both hemispheres. Ice water path (IWP) and its variability are compared between Northern Hemisphere (NH) and Southern Hemisphere (SH) warm fronts for different ETC-wide characteristics, as well as for different ETC origination regions. Results reveal that warm-frontal IWP and its variability tend to be higher in the NH than the SH, even when controlling for the ETC strength and environmental precipitable water (PW). IWP differences between NH and SH are found to be primarily related to where the cyclones originate. As the intertropical convergence zone is shifted north, ETCs that originate close to the northern tropics have more PW than those that originate close to the southern tropics. This, in turn, seems to lead to larger IWP in NH frontal clouds than in the SH frontal clouds at a later time. This highlights the importance, for ice amounts generated in warm-frontal regions, of the environmental conditions that an ETC encounters during its genesis phase.

Significance Statement

Extratropical cyclones (ETCs) are responsible for most of the winter precipitation in the midlatitudes and are often associated with severe winter weather events. In order for climate models to accurately predict these extreme events in a changing climate, they need to correctly represent moist processes, especially those involving ice. To evaluate and improve these models, we apply a compositing method to satellite observations of ice profiles in warm-frontal regions, which are known for having high cloud cover and precipitation. This helps us understand the distribution of ice across warm fronts in both the Northern Hemisphere (NH) and the Southern Hemisphere (SH). We compare the ice water path (IWP) and its variability between NH and SH warm fronts, considering different characteristics of ETCs and their formation regions. Our findings show that NH warm fronts generally contain more ice, and the amount varies a lot more across warm fronts than for SH warm fronts. This is true even when accounting for the strength of the cyclones and the moisture available to them. These differences in IWP between NH and SH are found to be primarily related to the locations where the cyclones originate. As the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) is shifted northward, ETCs originating closer to the northern tropics tend to have more moisture available to them than those originating closer to the southern tropics. This leads to greater ice amounts in NH frontal clouds compared to SH frontal clouds at a later time. These results emphasize the importance of understanding the origin of ETCs in order to accurately characterize ice processes in warm-frontal regions.

Open access
Robert H. Nazarian
,
Noel G. Brizuela
,
Brody J. Matijevic
,
James V. Vizzard
,
Carissa P. Agostino
, and
Nicholas J. Lutsko

Abstract

Northern Mexico is home to more than 32 million people and is of significant agricultural and economic importance for the country. The region includes three distinct hydroclimatic regions, all of which regularly experience severe dryness and flooding and are highly susceptible to future changes in precipitation. To date, little work has been done to characterize future trends in either mean or extreme precipitation over northern Mexico. To fill this gap, we investigate projected precipitation trends over the region in the NA-CORDEX ensemble of dynamically downscaled simulations. We first verify that these simulations accurately reproduce observed precipitation over northern Mexico, as derived from the Multi-Source Weighted-Ensemble Precipitation (MSWEP) product, demonstrating that the NA-CORDEX ensemble is appropriate for studying precipitation trends over the region. By the end of the century, simulations forced with a high-emissions scenario project that both mean and extreme precipitation will decrease to the west and increase to the east of the Sierra Madre highlands, decreasing the zonal gradient in precipitation. We also find that the North American monsoon, which is responsible for a substantial fraction of the precipitation over the region, is likely to start later and last approximately three weeks longer. The frequency of extreme precipitation events is expected to double throughout the region, exacerbating the flood risk for vulnerable communities in northern Mexico. Collectively, these results suggest that the extreme precipitation-related dangers that the region faces, such as flooding, will increase significantly by the end of the century, with implications for the agricultural sector, economy, and infrastructure.

Significance Statement

Northern Mexico regularly experiences severe flooding and its important agricultural sector can be heavily impacted by variations in precipitation. Using high-resolution climate model simulations that have been tested against observations, we find that these hydroclimate extremes are likely to be exacerbated in a warming climate; the dry (wet) season is projected to receive significantly less (more) precipitation (approximately ±10% by the end of the century). Simulations suggest that some of the changes in precipitation over the region can be related to the North American monsoon, with the monsoon starting later in the year and lasting several weeks longer. Our results also suggest that the frequency of extreme precipitation will increase, although this increase is smaller than that projected for other regions, with the strongest storms becoming 20% more frequent per degree of warming. These results suggest that this region may experience significant changes to its hydroclimate through the end of the century that will require significant resilience planning.

Open access
Dong Wan Kim
,
Sukyoung Lee
,
Joseph P. Clark
, and
Steven B. Feldstein

Abstract

A thermodynamic energy budget analysis is applied to the lowest model level of the ERA5 dataset to investigate the mechanisms that drive the growth and decay of extreme positive surface air temperature (SAT) events. Regional and seasonal variation of the mechanisms are investigated. For each grid point on Earth’s surface, a separate composite analysis is performed for extreme SAT events, which are days when temperature anomaly exceeds the 95th percentile. Among the dynamical terms, horizontal temperature advection of the climatological temperature by the anomalous wind dominates SAT anomaly growth over the extratropics, while nonlinear horizontal temperature advection is a major factor over high-latitude regions and the adiabatic warming is important over major mountainous regions. During the decay period, advection of the climatological temperature by the anomalous wind sustains the warming while nonlinear advection becomes the dominant decay mechanism. Among diabatic heating processes, vertical mixing contributes to the SAT anomaly growth over most locations while longwave radiative cooling hinders SAT anomaly growth, especially over the ocean. However, over arid regions during summer, longwave heating largely contributes to SAT anomaly growth while the vertical mixing dampens the SAT anomaly growth. During the decay period, both longwave cooling and vertical mixing contribute to SAT anomaly decay with more pronounced effects over the ocean and land, respectively. These regional and seasonal characteristics of the processes that drive extreme SAT events can serve as a benchmark for understanding the future behavior of extreme weather.

Open access
Will Hobbs
,
Paul Spence
,
Amelie Meyer
,
Serena Schroeter
,
Alexander D. Fraser
,
Philip Reid
,
Tian R. Tian
,
Zhaohui Wang
,
Guillaume Liniger
,
Edward W. Doddridge
, and
Philip W. Boyd

Abstract

In recent years, the Southern Ocean has experienced extremely low sea ice cover in multiple summers. These low events were preceded by a multidecadal positive trend that culminated in record high ice coverage in 2014. This abrupt transition has led some authors to suggest that Antarctic sea ice has undergone a regime shift. In this study we analyze the satellite sea ice record and atmospheric reanalyses to assess the evidence for such a shift. We find that the standard deviation of the summer sea ice record has doubled from 0.31 million km2 in 1979–2006 to 0.76 million km2 for 2007–22. This increased variance is accompanied by a longer season-to-season sea ice memory. The atmosphere is the primary driver of Antarctic sea ice variability, but using a linear predictive model we show that sea ice changes cannot be explained by the atmosphere alone. Identifying whether a regime shift has occurred is difficult without a complete understanding of the physical mechanism of change. However, the statistical changes that we demonstrate (i.e., increased variance and autocorrelation, and a changed response to atmospheric forcing), as well as the increased spatial coherence noted by previous research, are indicators based on dynamical systems theory of an abrupt critical transition. Thus, our analysis is further evidence in support of a changed Antarctic sea ice system.

Significance Statement

In recent years, there have been several summers with extremely low Antarctic sea ice cover, including consecutive record lows in February 2022 and February 2023. Since then, the 2023 winter has seen a remarkably low sea ice growth with an anomaly far below expected climatology. This has led researchers to question whether there has been a regime shift, and we assess the observational evidence for such a shift. In the last decade or so, the variability of summer sea ice has almost doubled, accompanied by a much longer sea ice memory from season to season. These statistical changes, as well an increased spatial coherence noted by other researchers, are consistent with theoretical indicators of a critical transition, or regime shift.

Open access
Ryan S. Williams
,
Gareth J. Marshall
,
Xavier Levine
,
Lise S. Graff
,
Dörthe Handorf
,
Nadine M. Johnston
,
Alexey Y. Karpechko
,
Andrew Orr
,
Willem Jan Van de Berg
,
René R. Wijngaard
, and
Priscilla A. Mooney

Abstract

A main source of regional climate change uncertainty is the large disparity across models in simulating the atmospheric circulation response to global warming. Using the latest suite of global climate models from the sixth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6), a storyline approach is adopted to derive physically plausible scenarios of Antarctic climate change for 2070–99, according to Shared Socioeconomic Pathway SSP5-8.5. These storylines correspond to differences in the simulated amount of seasonal sea ice loss and either (i) the delay in the summertime stratospheric polar vortex (SPV) breakdown or (ii) wintertime SPV strengthening, which together constitute robust drivers of the response pattern to future climate change. Such changes combined are known to exert a strong control over the Southern Hemisphere midlatitude jet stream, which we quantify as collectively explaining up to 70% of the variance in jet response in summer and 35% in winter. For summer, the expected strengthening and displacement of the tropospheric jet stream varies between a ∼1 and 2 m s−1 increase and ∼2°–4° poleward shift, respectively, across storylines. In both seasons, a larger strengthening of the jet is correlated with less Antarctic warming. By contrast, the response in precipitation is more consistent but still strongly attenuated by large-scale dynamics. We find that an increase in high-latitude precipitation around Antarctica is more pronounced for storylines characterized by a greater poleward jet shift, particularly in summer. Our results highlight the usefulness of the storyline approach in illustrating model uncertainty and understanding the processes that determine the spread in projected Antarctic regional climate response.

Significance Statement

Uncertainty in future climate predictions for the Antarctic is dominated by the unknown response of the large-scale (global) atmospheric circulation. In characterizing such uncertainty, plausible outcomes of climate response (storylines) are generated from the organization of model projections according to the amount of simulated seasonal sea ice loss and the delay in summertime breakdown/winter strengthening of the stratospheric westerly circulation (polar vortex). The intensity and location of the tropospheric jet stream is strongly dependent on both factors, which strongly influences the near-surface climate response over Antarctica. We find that the simulated amount that Antarctic air temperatures increase by in the future (to the end of the century) is intrinsically related to the projected intensification of the Southern Hemisphere tropospheric jet, varying by a factor of 2 or more across storylines for summer. Storylines with greater jet strengthening are associated with less Antarctic warming (reduced poleward advection of air masses from lower latitudes). Similar differences are found for changes in jet position, which we note has a much stronger control on mid- to high-latitude precipitation response. This includes both an enhanced wetting response around Antarctica and drying response farther equatorward, for storylines characterized by a greater poleward jet shift.

Open access