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Matthew Patterson
,
Christopher O’Reilly
,
Jon Robson
, and
Tim Woollings

Abstract

The coupled nature of the ocean–atmosphere system frequently makes understanding the direction of causality difficult in ocean–atmosphere interactions. This study presents a method to decompose turbulent surface heat fluxes into a component which is directly forced by atmospheric circulation and a residual which is assumed to be primarily “ocean-forced.” This method is applied to the North Atlantic in a 500-yr preindustrial control run using the Met Office’s HadGEM3-GC3.1-MM model. The method shows that atmospheric circulation dominates interannual to decadal heat flux variability in the Labrador Sea, in contrast to the Gulf Stream where the ocean primarily drives the variability. An empirical orthogonal function analysis identifies several residual heat flux modes associated with variations in ocean circulation. The first of these modes is characterized by the ocean warming the atmosphere along the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Current and the second by a dipole of cooling in the western subtropical North Atlantic and warming in the subpolar North Atlantic. Lead–lag regression analysis suggests that atmospheric circulation anomalies in prior years partly drive the ocean heat flux modes; however, there is no significant atmospheric circulation response in years following the peaks of the modes. Overall, the heat flux dynamical decomposition method provides a useful way to separate the effects of the ocean and atmosphere on heat flux and could be applied to other ocean basins and to either models or reanalysis datasets.

Significance Statement

Variability of the ocean affects atmospheric circulation and provides a source of long-term predictability for surface weather. However, the atmosphere also affects the ocean. This makes the separation of cause and effect in such atmosphere–ocean interactions difficult. This paper introduces a method to separate “turbulent heat fluxes,” the primary means by which the atmosphere and ocean influence one another, into a component driven by atmospheric variability and a component which is primarily related to ocean variability. The method is tested by applying it to a climate model simulation and is able to identify regions in which the exchange of heat between the ocean and atmosphere is dominated by atmospheric variability and regions which are dominated by the ocean.

Open access
Zili Shen
,
Anmin Duan
,
Wen Zhou
,
Yuzhuo Peng
, and
Jinxiao Li

Abstract

Two large ensemble simulations are adopted to investigate the relative contribution of external forcing and internal variability to Arctic sea ice variability on different time scales since 1960 by correcting the response error of models to external forcing using observational datasets. Our study suggests that previous approaches might overestimate the real impact of internal variability on Arctic sea ice change especially on long time scales. Our results indicate that in both March and September, internal variability plays a dominant role on all time scales over the twentieth century, while the anthropogenic signal on sea ice change can be steadily and consistently detected on a time scale of more than 20 years after the 2000s. We also reveal that the dominant mode of internal variability in March shows consistency across different time scales. On the contrary, the pattern of internal variability in September is highly nonuniform over the Arctic and varies across different time scales, indicating that sea ice internal variability in September at different time scales is driven by different factors.

Open access
Alex J. Cannon
,
Dae-Il Jeong
, and
Ka-Hing Yau

Abstract

Global warming is expected to lead to increases in atmospheric moisture and intensify subhourly to hourly rainfall extremes. However, signal-to-noise ratios are low, especially at the local scale, making detection of changes in the observational record difficult. For Canada, previous studies based on short data records from 1965 to 2005 did not show conclusive evidence of increases in short-duration extreme rainfall. This study updates single-site and regional trend analyses of 5-min–24-h annual maximum rainfall in Canada using data from 1950 to 2021. Estimates of temporal trends are extended to also consider the association between rainfall intensity and dewpoint temperature, a measure of moisture availability. With longer records, evidence for increases in extreme rainfall at individual sites is stronger. Field significant increasing trends are found for the majority of durations, whereas before results were mixed and typically not statistically significant. Intensification is even more pronounced in single-site scaling of rainfall intensity with summer mean dewpoint temperature. Field significant positive scaling rates are detected for all durations. When data are pooled in space—irrespective of choice of regionalization—the results are even more clear. Notably, the strongest and most spatially homogeneous intensification of short-duration extreme rainfall is detected in subhourly to 2-h durations. When data are pooled across Canadian climate regions, field significant positive scaling is found in 72.7%–81.8% of regions for 5-min–2-h durations, with median scaling rates ranging from 5.3% to 9.4% °C−1. For durations ≥ 6 h, this falls to 27.3%–53% of regions, with scaling rates less than 4% °C−1.

Open access
Stephanie Hay
and
Paul J. Kushner

Abstract

The response to Antarctic sea ice loss within a coupled modeling framework is examined in comparison to the response to Arctic sea ice loss and within the context of general greenhouse warming. Sea ice loss responses are found to be linear (particularly in response to Antarctic or global sea ice loss) with respect to the degree of imposed perturbation and additive when perturbations are applied in hemispheres separately and concurrently. Globally, and in the tropical Pacific in particular, Antarctic sea ice loss plays a relatively larger role than Arctic sea ice loss in both the atmosphere and the ocean, within the parameters of our experiments. The pattern of response to Antarctic sea ice loss is also found to more closely resemble that of greenhouse warming, again particularly in the tropics. An extension to multiparameter pattern scaling is developed to include a scaling factor for Antarctic change in addition to those for tropical warming and Arctic sea ice loss. The decomposition is applied to the modeled response to Antarctic sea ice loss to break it down into component partial responses that scale with Antarctic, tropical, and Arctic changes. This reveals the aspects of the response that are directly related to Antarctic change, such as an equatorward intensification of tropical precipitation in the Northern Hemisphere, and those that are modified via the induced changes in the tropics and Arctic, such as Northern Hemisphere temperature change. With this, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of the role of each of these changes for the development of physical mechanisms of the response.

Open access
Clark Weaver
,
Dong L. Wu
,
P. K. Bhartia
,
Gordon Labow
,
David P. Haffner
,
Lauren Borgia
,
Laura McBride
, and
Ross Salawitch

Abstract

We construct a long-term record of top of atmosphere (TOA) shortwave (SW) albedo of clouds and aerosols from 340-nm radiances observed by NASA and NOAA satellite instruments from 1980 to 2013. We compare our SW cloud+aerosol albedo with simulated cloud albedo from both AMIP and historical CMIP6 simulations from 47 climate models. While most historical runs did not simulate our observed spatial pattern of the trends in albedo over the Pacific Ocean, four models qualitatively simulate our observed patterns. Those historical models and the AMIP models collectively estimate an equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) of ∼3.5°C, with an uncertainty from 2.7° to 5.1°C. Our ECS estimates are sensitive to the instrument calibration, which drives the wide range in ECS uncertainty. We use instrument calibrations that assume a neutral change in reflectivity over the Antarctic ice sheet. Our observations show increasing cloudiness over the eastern equatorial Pacific and off the coast of Peru as well as neutral cloud trends off the coast of Namibia and California. To produce our SW cloud+aerosol albedo, we first retrieve a black-sky cloud albedo (BCA) and empirically correct the sampling bias from diurnal variations. Then, we estimate the broadband proxy albedo using multiple nonlinear regression along with several years of CERES cloud albedo to obtain the regression coefficients. We validate our product against CERES data from the years not used in the regression. Zonal mean trends of our SW cloud+aerosol albedo show reasonable agreement with CERES as well as the Pathfinder Atmospheres–Extended (PATMOS-x) observational dataset.

Significance Statement

Equilibrium climate sensitivity is a measure of the rise in global temperature over hundreds of years after a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration. Current state-of-the-art climate models forecast a wide range of equilibrium climate sensitivities (1.5°–6°C), due mainly to how clouds, aerosols, and sea surface temperatures are simulated within these models. Using data from NASA and NOAA satellite instruments from 1980 to 2013, we first construct a dataset that describes how much sunlight has been reflected by clouds over the 34 years and then we compare this data record to output from 47 climate models. Based on these comparisons, we conclude the best estimate of equilibrium climate sensitivity is about 3.5°C, with an uncertainty range of 2.7°–5.1°C.

Open access
Elena Saggioro
,
Theodore G. Shepherd
, and
Jeff Knight

Abstract

Skillful prediction of the Southern Hemisphere (SH) eddy-driven jet is crucial for representation of mid-to-high-latitude SH climate variability. In the austral spring-to-summer months, the jet and the stratospheric polar vortex variabilities are strongly coupled. Since the vortex is more predictable and influenced by long-lead drivers 1 month or more ahead, the stratosphere is considered a promising pathway for improving forecasts in the region on subseasonal to seasonal (S2S) time scales. However, a quantification of this predictability has been lacking, as most modeling studies address only one of the several interacting drivers at a time, while statistical analyses quantify association but not skill. This methodological gap is addressed through a knowledge-driven probabilistic causal network approach, quantified with seasonal ensemble hindcast data. The approach enables to quantify the jet’s long-range predictability arising from known late-winter drivers, namely, El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Indian Ocean dipole (IOD), upward wave activity flux, and polar night jet oscillation, mediated by the vortex variability in spring. Network-based predictions confirm the vortex as determinant for skillful jet predictions, both for the jet’s poleward shift in late spring and its equatorward shift in early summer. ENSO, IOD, late-winter wave activity flux, and polar night jet oscillation only provide moderate prediction skill to the vortex. This points to early spring submonthly variability as important for determining the vortex state leading up to its breakdown, creating a predictability bottleneck for the jet. The method developed here offers a new avenue to quantify the predictability provided by multiple, interacting drivers on S2S time scales.

Significance Statement

Predictions of the Southern Hemisphere midlatitude jet stream are crucial for skillful forecasts of the austral mid-to-high latitudes. Several oceanic and atmospheric phenomena could, if better represented in models, improve spring-to-summer jet predictions on subseasonal to seasonal time scales. However, the combined potential skill arising from the inclusion of such phenomena has not been quantified. This study does so by using a probabilistic causal network model, representing the connections between those drivers and the jet with conditional probabilities, trained on large sets of model data. The stratospheric polar vortex is confirmed as crucial predictor of jet variability but is itself hard to predict a month in advance due to submonthly variability, creating a predictability bottleneck for the jet.

Open access
Olawale James Ikuyajolu
,
Luke Van Roekel
,
Steven R. Brus
,
Erin E. Thomas
,
Yi Deng
, and
James J. Benedict

Abstract

This study investigates the sensitivity of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) to changes to the bulk flux parameterization and the role of ocean surface waves in air–sea coupling using a fully coupled ocean–atmosphere–wave model. The atmospheric and ocean model components of the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) are coupled to a spectral wave model, WAVEWATCH III (WW3). Two experiments with wind speed–dependent bulk algorithms (NCAR and COARE3.0a) and one experiment with wave-state-dependent flux (COR3.0a-WAV) were conducted. We modify COARE3.0a to include surface roughness calculated within WW3 and also account for the buffering effect of waves on the relative difference between air-side and ocean-side momentum flux. Differences in surface fluxes, primarily caused by discrepancies in drag coefficients, result in significant differences in MJO’s properties. While COARE3.0a has better convection–circulation coupling than NCAR, it exhibits anomalous MJO convection east of the date line. The wave-state-dependent flux (COR3.0-WAV) improves the MJO representation over the default COARE3.0 algorithm. Strong easterlies over the Pacific Ocean in COARE3.0a enhance the latent heat flux (LHFLX). This is responsible for the anomalous MJO propagation after the date line. In COR3.0a-WAV, waves reduce the anomalous easterlies, leading to a decrease in LHFLX and MJO dissipation after the date line. These findings highlight the role of surface fluxes in MJO simulation fidelity. Most importantly, we show that the proper treatment of wave-induced effects in bulk flux parameterization improves the simulation of coupled climate variability.

Open access
Kitty Attwood
,
Richard Washington
, and
Callum Munday

Abstract

Heat lows are key features of subtropical climates and monsoon systems. In southern Africa, they are pivotal to understanding divergent climate change projections, in particular the veracity of future rainfall decline. Compared to other heat lows, including in West Africa and Australia, the southern African heat low remains poorly documented. Here, we analyze the diurnal cycle, seasonal variability, and trends of the heat low in reanalysis data. In ERA5, 462 strong heat low days are detected between September and March from 1990 to 2019, equating to 7.3% of days sampled. These events feature ascent (exceeding −0.2 Pa s−1) at low levels (strongest between 800 and 600 hPa) and subsidence aloft, generating low-level cyclonic flow with anticyclonic flow above. This flow exhibits strong diurnal variability, with peak windspeeds between 0600 and 0900 UTC and maximum ascent at ∼2300 UTC. Heat lows form preferentially over Angola in September (∼14°S) and October (15°–20°S), and in Namibia from November to March (∼20°–26°S). Strongest ascent occurs over areas of high elevation. Finally, we show a rapidly increasing frequency of strong heat low days, with a 175% increase between 1960–89 and 1990–2019. The greatest increase (459%) has occurred in the early summer months of September and October, consistent with projections of delayed rainfall onset. Strikingly, more strong heat lows are detected in the most recent 5 years of analysis (2014–19) than in the 30-yr period from 1960 to 1989. These results suggest the heat low is an important feature in determining drying trends over southern Africa and is a vital indicator of climate model accuracy.

Significance Statement

This work documents the heat low that forms in southern Africa in the lowest levels of the atmosphere. The feature is present during austral summer (from September to March) and is associated with below average rainfall across much of the subcontinent. The frequency of strong heat lows has rapidly increased in line with regional amplified warming trends. The heat low is identified as an important control on circulation and precipitation patterns and changes in the frequency or intensity of the feature in the future are likely to influence the strength of declining rainfall trends across southern Africa.

Open access
Isaac Davis
and
Brian Medeiros

Abstract

The Community Earth System Model, version 2 (CESM2), has a very high climate sensitivity driven by strong positive cloud feedbacks. To evaluate the simulated clouds in the present climate and characterize their response with climate warming, a clustering approach is applied to three independent satellite cloud products and a set of coupled climate simulations. Using k-means clustering with a Wasserstein distance cost function, a set of typical cloud configurations is derived for the satellite cloud products. Using satellite simulator output, the model clouds are classified into the observed cloud regimes in both current and future climates. The model qualitatively reproduces the observed cloud configurations in the historical simulation using the same time period as the satellite observations, but it struggles to capture the observed heterogeneity of clouds which leads to an overestimation of the frequency of a few preferred cloud regimes. This problem is especially apparent for boundary layer clouds. Those low-level cloud regimes also account for much of the climate response in the late twenty-first century in four shared socioeconomic pathway simulations. The model reduces the frequency of occurrence of these low-cloud regimes, especially in tropical regions under large-scale subsidence, in favor of regimes that have weaker cloud radiative effects.

Open access
Olivia Gozdz
,
Martha W. Buckley
, and
Timothy DelSole

Abstract

The impact of interactive ocean dynamics on internal variations of Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) is investigated by comparing preindustrial control simulations of a fully coupled atmosphere–ocean–ice model to the same atmosphere–ice model with the ocean replaced by a motionless slab layer (henceforth slab ocean model). Differences in SST variability between the two models are diagnosed by an optimization technique that finds components whose variance differs as much as possible. This technique reveals that Atlantic SST variability differs significantly between the two models. The two components with the most extreme enhancement of SST variance in the slab ocean model resemble the tripole SST pattern associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the Atlantic multidecadal variability (AMV) pattern. This result supports previous claims that ocean dynamics are not necessary for the AMV, although ocean dynamics lead to slight increases in the memory of both the AMV and the NAO tripole. The component with the most extreme enhancement of SST variance in the fully coupled model resembles the Atlantic Niño pattern, confirming the ability of our technique to isolate physical modes known to require ocean dynamics. The second component with more variance in the fully coupled model is a mode of subpolar SST variability. Both the reemergence of SST anomalies and changes in ocean heat transport lead to increased SST variance and memory in the subpolar Atlantic. Despite large differences in the mean and variability of SST, atmospheric variability is quite similar between the two models, confirming that most atmospheric variability is generated by internal atmospheric dynamics.

Open access