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S. Sharmila
,
H. Hendon
,
O. Alves
,
A. Weisheimer
, and
M. Balmaseda

Abstract

Despite the growing demand for long-range ENSO predictions beyond 1 year, quantifying the skill at these lead times remains limited. This is partly due to inadequate long records of seasonal reforecasts that make skill estimates of irregular ENSO events quite challenging. Here, we investigate ENSO predictability and the dependency of prediction skill on the ENSO cycle using 110 years of 24-month-long 10-member ensemble reforecasts from ECMWF’s coupled model (SEAS5-20C) initialized on 1 November and 1 May during 1901–2010. Results show that Niño-3.4 SST can be skillfully predicted up to ∼18 lead months when initialized on 1 November, but skill drops at ∼12 lead months for May starts that encounter the boreal spring predictability barrier in year 2. The skill beyond the first year is highly conditioned to the phase of ENSO: Forecasts initialized at peak El Niño are more skillful in year 2 than those initialized at peak La Niña, with the transition to La Niña being more predictable than to El Niño. This asymmetry is related to the subsurface initial conditions in the western equatorial Pacific: peak El Niño states evolving into La Niña are associated with strong upper-ocean heat discharge of the western Pacific, the memory of which stays beyond 1 year. In contrast, the western Pacific recharged state associated with La Niña is usually weaker and shorter-lived, being a weaker preconditioner for subsequent El Niño, the year after. High prediction skill of ENSO events beyond 1 year provides motivation for extending the lead time of operational seasonal forecasts up to 2 years.

Open access
Antonios Dimitrelos
,
Rodrigo Caballero
, and
Annica M. L. Ekman

Abstract

The main energy input to the polar regions in winter is the advection of warm, moist air from lower latitudes. This makes the polar climate sensitive to the temperature and moisture of extrapolar air. Here, we study this sensitivity from an air-mass transformation perspective. We perform simulations of an idealized maritime air mass brought into contact with sea ice employing a three-dimensional large-eddy simulation model coupled to a one-dimensional multilayer sea ice model. We study the response of cloud dynamics and surface warming during the air-mass transformation process to varying initial temperature and humidity conditions of the air mass. We find in all cases that a mixed-phase cloud is formed, initially near the surface but rising continuously with time. Surface warming of the sea ice is driven by downward longwave surface fluxes, which are largely controlled by the temperature and optical depth of the cloud. Cloud temperature, in turn, is robustly constrained by the initial dewpoint temperature of the air mass. Since dewpoint only depends on moisture, the overall result is that surface warming depends almost exclusively on initial humidity and is largely independent of initial temperature. We discuss possible climate implications of this result—in particular, for polar amplification of surface warming and the role played by atmospheric energy transports.

Open access
Qihua Peng
,
Shang-Ping Xie
,
Rui Xin Huang
,
Weiqiang Wang
,
Tingting Zu
, and
Dongxiao Wang

Abstract

The Indonesian Throughflow (ITF) is projected to slow down under anthropogenic warming. Several mechanisms—some mutually conflicting—have been proposed but the detailed processes causing this slowdown remain unclear. By turning on/off buoyancy and wind forcings globally and in key regions, this study investigates the dynamical adjustments underlying the centennial ITF slowdown in the global oceans and climate models. Our results show that the projected weakened ITF transport in the top 1500 m is dominated by remote anomalous buoyancy forcing in the North Atlantic Ocean. Specifically, surface freshening and warming over the North Atlantic Ocean slow the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), and the resultant dynamic signals propagate through the coastal-equatorial waveguide into the southeastern Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean, causing the reduction of ITF transport over a deep layer. In contrast, the anomalous surface buoyancy flux in the Indo-Pacific affects the ocean temperature and salinity in a shallow upper layer, resulting in ITF changes in forms of high baroclinic mode structure with negligible impacts on the net ITF transport. A vertical partitioning index is proposed to distinguish the remote forcing via the AMOC and regional forcing in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, which could be useful for monitoring, attributing, and predicting the changing ITF transport under global warming.

Restricted access
Ori Adam
,
Alexander Farnsworth
, and
Daniel J. Lunt

Abstract

The tropical rain belt varies between unimodal and bimodal meridional precipitation distributions, both regionally and on seasonal to geological time scales. Here we show that this variation is largely driven by equatorial precipitation inhibition, and quantify it using an equatorial modality index (EMI) that varies continuously between 1 and 2 for purely unimodal and bimodal distributions. We show that tropical modality is a fundamental characteristic of tropical climate, which we define as annual-mean EMI. We examine large-scale aspects of tropical modality across 73 climate models from phases 5 and 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, 45 paleo simulations (∼300 million years ago to present), and observations. We find increased tropical modality to be strongly related to increased width of the tropical rain belt, wider and weaker meridional overturning circulation, colder equatorial cold tongues, and more severe double intertropical convergence zone bias in modern climate models. Tropical sectors (or global zonal means) with low tropical modality are characterized by monsoonal seasonal variations (i.e., seasonal migrations of rainbands following the sun). In sectors with high tropical modality we identify three important seasonal modes: (i) migration of the precipitation distribution toward the warmer hemisphere, (ii) variation in the latitudinal separation between hemispheric rainbands, and (iii) seesaw variation in the intensity of the hemispheric rainbands. In high tropical modality sectors, due to contrasting shifts of the migration and separation modes, counter to general wisdom, seasonal migrations of tropical rainbands cannot be generally assumed to follow the sun.

Significance Statement

The tropical rain belt is a band of intense precipitation that encircles the tropics. Important tropical phenomena such as monsoons and seasonal shifts of marine rainbands are driven by seasonal migrations of the tropical rain belt, which therefore govern key socioeconomic aspects of tropical populations. This work examines how changes in the north–south profile of tropical precipitation affect large-scale aspects of tropical climate, on seasonal to geological time scales. Specifically, we examine the tendency of the profile of the tropical rain belt to vary from having one to two peaks (i.e., from being unimodal to bimodal). We define an objective quantitative measure of this modality variation, which varies between 1 and 2 for unimodal and bimodal profiles. We then show that the annual mean of this measure is an important general characteristic of tropical climate, which we define as tropical modality. We also show that in tropical regions where tropical modality is low (close to 1), rainbands follow the sun in their seasonal migrations, and conform to the canonical model of the tropical overturning circulation, known as the Hadley circulation, which goes along with monsoonal seasonal variations. However, in regions with high tropical modality (i.e., close to 2), the common theoretical expectation that rainbands follow the sun (or migrate toward the warming hemisphere) is not generally justified. Instead, we identify three important independent seasonal modes of variation: (i) migration of the precipitation distribution toward the warmer hemisphere, (ii) variation in the latitudinal separation between hemispheric rainbands (or width of the precipitation profile), and (iii) seesaw variation in the intensity of the hemispheric rainbands.

Restricted access
Mengmeng Lu
,
Song Yang
,
Congwen Zhu
,
Junbin Wang
,
Shuheng Lin
,
Wei Wei
, and
Hanjie Fan

Abstract

While it is commonly accepted that the thermal effect of the Tibetan Plateau (TP) strengthens the Asian summer monsoon, a recent analysis based mainly on idealized model experiments revealed that the TP effect weakened the Southeast Asian summer monsoon (SEASM). Based on both observational analyses and model experiments, the current study further deciphers the physical mechanism for the TP’s thermal impact on the SEASM and the modulation of this impact by the sea surface temperature (SST) in the tropical Atlantic. When diabatic heating is enhanced over the southern TP, the South Asian high (SAH) intensifies and extends eastward, leading to convergence over the southeastern flank of the anomalous upper-level anticyclone and sinking motion that cause downward advection of negative vorticity. Accompanied by this anomalous anticyclonic pattern, the western Pacific subtropical high (WPSH) extends westward and the monsoon over Southeast Asia is weakened. The TP–SEASM relationship is enhanced when SST and convection increase over the tropical Atlantic, which cause an anomalous barotropic wave train propagating southeastward from eastern North America to East Asia, leading to an eastward extension of the SAH and a westward extension of the WPSH. The anomalous heating over the tropical Atlantic also modulates the Walker circulation through two anomalous vertical cells, with ascending motions over the Maritime Continent and the eastern tropical Indian Ocean, inducing a lower-level anticyclone over Southeast Asia as a Gill-type response. Thus, a warming tropical Atlantic can intensify the TP’s thermal forcing, weaken the SEASM, and then modulate the TP–SEASM relationship through both the extratropical wave train and the tropical zonal circulation.

Significance Statement

The Southeast Asian summer monsoon (SEASM) exhibits significant interannual variability. This study is aimed at better understanding the thermal impact of the Tibetan Plateau (TP) on the interannual variability of SEASM intensity and the possible modulating effect of the tropical Atlantic on the TP–SEASM relationship. We find that enhanced heating over the southern TP weakens the SEASM circulation and its associated precipitation by extending the South Asian high eastward and expanding the western Pacific subtropical high westward. Tropical Atlantic warming enhances this TP–SEASM relationship through both the extratropical wave train and the tropical zonal circulation. Thus, seasonal prediction of the SEASM can be improved by further considering the synergistic impact of the TP’s thermal forcing and the tropical Atlantic surface temperature.

Open access
David Fuchs
,
Steven C. Sherwood
,
Darryn Waugh
,
Vishal Dixit
,
Matthew H. England
,
Yi-Ling Hwong
, and
Olivier Geoffroy

Abstract

Midlatitude weather is largely governed by bands of strong westerly winds known as the midlatitude jets, but what controls the jet properties, particularly their latitudes, remains poorly understood. Climate models show a spread of about 10° in their simulated present-day latitude of the Southern Hemisphere (SH) jet, and a related spread in its predicted poleward shift under global warming. We find that models with more poleward jets simulate more low-level moisture, a warmer upper troposphere, and different precipitation patterns than those with equatorward jets, potentially implicating intermodel differences in moist convection and microphysics. Accordingly, a suite of atmospheric model runs is performed where the deep or shallow convective parameterizations are individually turned off either globally or in specific latitude bands. These experiments suggest that models that produce more shallow convection in the midlatitudes tend to position the jet relatively poleward in SH summer, whereas those that favor deep convection tend to position it equatorward. This accounts for a spread 60% as large as that of the AMIP ensemble during the austral summer. Our results suggest that, in the boreal summer, similar biases appear in the Northern Hemisphere. The presence of shallow convection in the Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes reduces SH jet shift in a warmer climate in accordance to the correlation between jet positions and shift seen in this season. These results can help explain intermodel differences in the position and shift of the jet, and point to an unexpected role for atmospheric moist convection in the midlatitude circulation.

Restricted access
David P. Rowell
and
Ségolène Berthou

Abstract

Convection-permitting (CP) models promise much in response to the demand for increased localization of future climate information: greater resolution of influential land surface characteristics, improved representation of convective storms, and unprecedented resolution of user-relevant data. In practice, however, it is contended that the benefits of enhanced resolution cannot be fully realized due to the gap between models’ computational and effective resolution. Nevertheless, where surface forcing is strongly heterogeneous, one can argue that usable information may persist close to the grid scale. Here we analyze a 4.5-km resolution CP projection for Africa, asking whether and where fine-scale projection detail is robust at sub-25-km scales, focusing on geolocated rainfall features (rather than Lagrangian motion). Statistically significant detail for seasonal means and daily extremes is most frequent in regions of high topographic variability, most prominently in East Africa throughout the annual cycle, West Africa in the monsoon season, and to a lesser extent over Southern Africa. Lake coastal features have smaller but significant impacts on projection detail, whereas ocean coastlines and urban conurbations have little or no detectable impact. The amplitude of this sub-25-km projection detail can be similar to that of the local climatology in mountainous regions (or around a third near East Africa’s lake shores), so potentially beneficial for improved localization of future climate information. In flatter regions distant from coasts (the majority of Africa), spatial heterogeneity can be explained by chaotic weather variability. Here, the robustness of local climate projection information can be substantially enhanced by spatial aggregation to approximately 25-km scales, especially for daily extremes and equatorial regions.

Significance Statement

Recent substantial increases in the horizontal resolution of climate models bring the potential for both more reliable and more local future climate information. However, the best spatial scale on which to analyze such data for impacts assessments remains unclear. We examine a 4.5-km resolution climate projection for Africa, focusing on seasonal and daily rainfall. Spatially fixed fine-scale projection detail is found to be statistically robust at sub-25-km scales in the most mountainous regions and to a lesser extent along lake coastlines. Elsewhere, the model data may be better aggregated to at least 25-km scales to reduce sampling uncertainties. Such evolving guidance on the circumstances and extent of high-resolution data aggregation will help users gain greater benefit from climate model projections.

Open access
Yeon-Woo Choi
and
Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

For millennia, Mesopotamia was blessed by enough water supplied by the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. However, the dwindling freshwater resource is no longer enough. In the future, climate change coupled with a growing population could considerably exacerbate the current water deficit. Based on simulations by carefully selected global and regional climate models, we conclude that these river basins may possibly face further water shortages (mainly due to a reduction in spring-season precipitation) in the next few decades (2021–50) under a scenario of high emissions of greenhouse gases. However, there is no consensus among models regarding these near-term (2021–50) projections of change in precipitation, and society is likely to face the challenge of how to prepare for this uncertain future. The story is different for the late decades of this century: we project, with significantly more confidence, a robust decrease in wet-season (winter to spring) precipitation over the headwaters of these river basins, worsening future water deficits and implying a century-long drying trend over Mesopotamia. Possible physical mechanisms are proposed and discussed. As global warming progresses, higher sea level pressure, centered on the Mediterranean Sea, will likely make upstream storms less frequent and weaker, leading to drying over Mesopotamia. Further, projections show a poleward migration of the fewer Mediterranean storm tracks, decreasing the frequency of storms that penetrate into Mesopotamia. Implementing a global net-zero carbon emissions policy by midcentury could mitigate the severity of the projected droughts in this region.

Open access
Yao Feng
,
Hong Wang
,
Wenbin Liu
, and
Fubao Sun

Abstract

Soil moisture (SM) during the vegetation growing season largely affects plant transpiration and photosynthesis, and further alters the land energy and water balance through its impact on the energy partition into latent and sensible heat fluxes. To highlight the impact of strong vegetation activity, we investigate global SM–climate interactions over the peak growing season (PGS) during 1982–2015 based on multisource datasets. Results suggest widespread positive SM–precipitation (P), SM–evapotranspiration (ET), and negative SM–temperature (T) interactions with non-negligible negative SM–P, SM–ET, and positive SM–T interactions over PGS. Relative to the influence of individual climate factors on SM, the compounding effect of climate factors strengthens SM–climate interactions. Simultaneously, variations of SM are dominated by precipitation from 50°N toward the south, by evapotranspiration from 50°N toward the north, and by temperature over the Sahara, western and central Asia, and the Tibetan Plateau. Importantly, the higher probability of concurrent SM wetness and climate extremes indicates the instant response of SM wetness to extreme climate. In contrast, the resistance of vegetation partially contributes to a consequent slower response of SM dryness to extreme climate. We highlight the significance of the compounding effects of climate factors in understanding SM–climate interaction in the context of strong vegetation activity, and the response of SM wetness and dryness to climate extremes.

Restricted access
Pengkun Yang
,
Ming Bao
,
Xuejuan Ren
, and
Xin Tan

Abstract

The anomalous stratospheric state favoring the occurrence of sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs) is usually referred to as vortex preconditioning. This study investigates the role of vortex preconditioning in triggering strong and weak SSWs by using ERA5 reanalysis data. Strong and weak SSWs are distinguished by the amplitude of zonal wind deceleration of sudden stratospheric deceleration events. The robust stratospheric anomalies before strong SSWs last longer compared to weak SSWs, accompanied by stronger amplification of stratospheric wave activity near the warming. The stratospheric anomalies before weak SSWs have two significant enhancement stages, with two processes of stratospheric wave amplification. Robust stratospheric anomalies generally appear before tropospheric wave events (TWEs) followed by the strong and weak SSWs, which are absent before TWEs without SSWs. Stratospheric meridional potential vorticity gradient events (SPVEs) are defined to represent the anomalous stratospheric state during vortex preconditioning. The SPVEs can effectively modulate the stratospheric upward wave activity. No strong lower-tropospheric wave forcing is seen for the composites of both strong and weak SSWs preceded by SPVEs. These SSWs account for about 59% of the total SSWs. Furthermore, about 23% of strong SSWs and 36% of weak SSWs are only preceded by SPVEs without TWEs, indicating the major role of vortex preconditioning in triggering these SSWs. The SPVEs can be caused by wave breaking in the surfzone or the enhanced polar vortex, while the SPVEs preceded by clear wave breaking may be more favorable to the occurrence of SSWs.

Restricted access