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Aaron J. Hill, Christopher C. Weiss, and David C. Dowell

Abstract

Ensemble forecasts are generated with and without the assimilation of near-surface observations from a portable, mesoscale network of StickNet platforms during the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment–Southeast (VORTEX-SE). Four VORTEX-SE intensive observing periods are selected to evaluate the impact of StickNet observations on forecasts and predictability of deep convection within the Southeast United States. StickNet observations are assimilated with an experimental version of the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh Ensemble (HRRRE) in one experiment, and withheld in a control forecast experiment. Overall, StickNet observations are found to effectively reduce mesoscale analysis and forecast errors of temperature and dewpoint. Differences in ensemble analyses between the two parallel experiments are maximized near the StickNet array and then either propagate away with the mean low-level flow through the forecast period or remain quasi-stationary, reducing local analysis biases. Forecast errors of temperature and dewpoint exhibit periods of improvement and degradation relative to the control forecast, and error increases are largely driven on the storm scale. Convection predictability, measured through subjective evaluation and objective verification of forecast updraft helicity, is driven more by when forecasts are initialized (i.e., more data assimilation cycles with conventional observations) rather than the inclusion of StickNet observations in data assimilation. It is hypothesized that the full impact of assimilating these data is not realized in part due to poor sampling of forecast sensitive regions by the StickNet platforms, as identified through ensemble sensitivity analysis.

Open access
Torbjørn Selseng, Marit Klemetsen, and Tone Rusdal

Abstract

In recent decades there has been a surge in the scholarship on climate change adaptation (CCA) terminology, and diverging interpretations of the term have emerged. Given the crucial role of local governments in building societywide adaptive capacity, understanding how municipalities understand and interpret CCA is important. In this study, we analyze 12 large-scale questionnaires from 2007 to 2020 distributed to all Norwegian municipalities. Using a combination of directed and conventional content analysis of the questions and answers, we summarize and map the progress of adaptation work over the 14 years and assess the consistency and the scope of the surveys in light of the current research on climate adaptation. We find diverging views on what adaptation entails, both from the researchers, in the phrasing of questions, and from the respondents. The empirical evidence suggests an overall imbalanced interpretation of CCA, in terms of the risks and consequences we may face, the climate to which adapting is needed, and adequate adaptation strategies. We go on to discuss the implications of these findings, highlighting the need for a shared and well-communicated framework for local CCA and a closer monitoring of the actual efforts of the municipalities. If instead left unchecked, this confusion might lead to unsustainable maladaptation at the local government level throughout Norway and beyond.

Open access
Hui Li, Alexey Fedorov, and Wei Liu

Abstract

This study compares the impacts of Arctic sea ice decline on the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) in two configurations of the Community Earth System Model with different horizontal resolution. In a suite of model experiments, we impose radiative imbalance at the ice surface, replicating a loss of sea ice cover comparable to that observed during 1979–2014, and we find dramatic differences in the AMOC response between the two models. In the lower-resolution configuration, the AMOC weakens by about one-third over the first 100 years, approaching a new quasi-equilibrium. By contrast, in the higher-resolution configuration, the AMOC weakens by ~10% during the first 20–30 years followed by a full recovery driven by invigorated deep water formation in the Labrador Sea and adjacent regions. We investigate these differences using a diagnostic AMOC stability indicator, which reflects the AMOC freshwater transport in and out of the basin and hence the strength of the basin-scale salt-advection feedback. This indicator suggests that the AMOC in the lower-resolution model is less stable and more sensitive to surface perturbations, as confirmed by hosing experiments mimicking Arctic freshening due to sea ice decline. Differences between the models’ mean states, including the Atlantic Ocean mean surface freshwater fluxes, control the differences in AMOC stability. Our results demonstrate that the AMOC stability indicator is indeed useful for evaluating AMOC sensitivity to perturbations. We emphasize that, despite the differences in the long-term adjustment, both models simulate a multidecadal AMOC weakening caused by Arctic sea ice decline, relevant to climate change.

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Aoyun Xue, Wenjun Zhang, Julien Boucharel, and Fei-Fei Jin

Abstract

Although the 1997/98 and 2015/16 El Niño events are considered to be the strongest on record, their subsequent La Niña events exhibited contrasted evolutions. In this study, we demonstrate that the extremely strong period of tropical instability waves (TIWs) at the beginning of boreal summer of 2016 played an important role in hindering the subsequent La Niña’s development by transporting extra off-equatorial heat into the Pacific cold tongue. By comparing the TIWs’ contribution based on an oceanic mixed layer heat budget analysis for the 1998 and 2016 episodes, we establish that TIW-induced nonlinear dynamical heating (NDH) is a significant contributor to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phase transition in 2016. TIW-induced NDH contributed to around 0.4°C warming per month during the early boreal summer (May–June) following the 2015/16 El Niño’s peak, which is found to be an essential inhibiting factor that prevented the subsequent La Niña’s growth. A time-mean eddy kinetic energy analysis reveals that anomalous TIWs during 2016 mainly gained their energy from the baroclinic instability conversion due to a strong SST warming in the northeastern off-equatorial Pacific that promoted an increased meridional SST gradient. This highlights the importance of accurately reproducing TIW activity in ENSO simulation and the benefit of off-equatorial SST anomalies in the eastern Pacific as an independent precursor for ENSO predictions.

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Philippe Goulet Coulombe and Maximilian Göbel

Abstract

On 15 September 2020, Arctic sea ice extent (SIE) ranked second-to-lowest in history and keeps trending downward. The understanding of how feedback loops amplify the effects of external CO2 forcing is still limited. We propose the VARCTIC model, which is a vector autoregression (VAR) designed to capture and extrapolate Arctic feedback loops. VARs are dynamic simultaneous systems of equations, routinely estimated to predict and understand the interactions of multiple macroeconomic time series. The VARCTIC is a parsimonious compromise between full-blown climate models and purely statistical approaches that usually offer little explanation of the underlying mechanism. Our completely unconditional forecast has SIE hitting 0 in September by the 2060s. Impulse response functions reveal that anthropogenic CO2 emission shocks have an unusually durable effect on SIE—a property shared by no other shock. We find albedo- and thickness-based feedbacks to be the main amplification channels through which CO2 anomalies impact SIE in the short and medium runs. Furthermore, conditional forecast analyses reveal that the future path of SIE crucially depends on the evolution of CO2 emissions, with outcomes ranging from recovering SIE to it reaching 0 in the 2050s. Finally, albedo and thickness feedbacks are shown to play an important role in accelerating the speed at which predicted SIE is heading toward 0.

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Maqsooda Mahomed, Alistair D. Clulow, Sheldon Strydom, Tafadzwanashe Mabhaudhi, and Michael J. Savage

Abstract

Climate change projections of increases in lightning activity are an added concern for lightning-prone countries such as South Africa. South Africa’s high levels of poverty, lack of education, and awareness, as well as a poorly developed infrastructure, increase the vulnerability of rural communities to the threat of lightning. Despite the existence of national lightning networks, lightning alerts and warnings are not disseminated well to such rural communities. We therefore developed a community-based early warning system (EWS) to detect and disseminate lightning threats and alerts in a timely and comprehensible manner within Swayimane, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The system is composed of an electrical field meter and a lightning flash sensor with warnings disseminated via audible and visible alarms on site and with a remote server issuing short message services (SMSs) and email alerts. Twelve months of data (February 2018–February 2019) were utilized to evaluate the performance of the EWS’s detection and warning capabilities. Diurnal variations in lightning activity indicated the influence of solar radiation, causing convective conditions with peaks in lightning activity occurring during the late afternoon and early evening (between 1400 and 2100) coinciding with students being released from school and when most workers return home. In addition to detecting the threat of lightning, the EWS was beneficial in identifying periods that exhibited above-normal lightning activity, with two specific lightning events examined in detail. Poor network signals in rural communities presented an initial challenge, delaying data transmission to the central server until rectified using multiple network providers. Overall, the EWS was found to disseminate reliable warnings in a timely manner.

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Amélie Desmarais and L. Bruno Tremblay

Abstract

Uncertainties in the timing of a seasonal ice cover in the Arctic Ocean depend on model physics and parameterizations, natural variability at decadal time scales, and uncertainties in climate scenarios and forcings. We use the Gridded Monthly Sea Ice Extent and Concentration, 1850 Onward data product to assess the simulated decadal variability from the Community Earth System Model–Large Ensemble (CESM-LE) in the Pacific, Eurasian, and Atlantic sectors of the Arctic where a longer observational record exists. Results show that sea ice decadal (8–16 years) variability in CESM-LE is in agreement with the observational record in the Pacific sector of the Arctic, underestimated in the Eurasian sector of the Arctic, specifically in the East Siberian Sea, and slightly overestimated in the Atlantic sector of the Arctic, specifically in the Greenland Sea. Results also show an increase in variability at decadal time scales in the Eurasian and Pacific sectors during the transition to a seasonally ice-free Arctic, in agreement with the observational record although this increase is delayed by 10–20 years. If the current sea ice retreat in the Arctic continues to be Pacific-centric, results from the CESM-LE suggest that uncertainty in the timing of an ice-free Arctic associated with natural variability is realistic, but that a seasonal ice cover may occur earlier than projected.

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Yann Y. Planton, Jérôme Vialard, Eric Guilyardi, Mathieu Lengaigne, and Michael J. McPhaden

Abstract

Unusually high western Pacific Ocean oceanic heat content often leads to El Niño about 1 year later, while unusually low heat content leads to La Niña. Here, we investigate if El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) predictability also depends on the initial state recharge, and we discuss the underlying mechanisms. To that end, we use the CNRM-CM5 model, which has a reasonable representation of the main observed ENSO characteristics, asymmetries, and feedbacks. Observations and a 1007-yr-long CNRM-CM5 simulation indicate that discharged states evolve more systematically into La Niña events than recharged states into neutral states or El Niño events. We ran 70-member ensemble experiments in a perfect-model setting, initialized in boreal autumn from either recharged or discharged western Pacific heat content, sampling the full range of corresponding ENSO phases. Predictability measures based both on spread and signal-to-noise ratio confirm that discharged states yield a more predictable ENSO outcome one year later than recharged states. As expected from recharge oscillator theory, recharged states evolve into positive central Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies in boreal spring, inducing stronger and more variable westerly wind event activity and a fast growth of the ensemble spread during summer and autumn. This also enhances the positive wind stress feedback in autumn, but the effect is offset by changes in thermocline and heat flux feedbacks. The state-dependent component of westerly wind events is thus the most likely cause for the predictability asymmetry in CNRM-CM5, although changes in the low-frequency wind stress feedback may also contribute.

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Xiaohe An, Bo Wu, Tianjun Zhou, and Bo Liu

Abstract

The interdecadal Pacific oscillation (IPO) and Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO), two leading modes of decadal climate variability, are not independent. It was proposed that ENSO-like sea surface temperature (SST) variations play a central role in the Pacific responses to the AMO forcing. However, observational analyses indicate that the AMO-related SST anomalies in the tropical Pacific are far weaker than those in the extratropical North Pacific. Here, we show that SST in the North Pacific is tied to the AMO forcing by convective heating associated with precipitation over the tropical Pacific, instead of by SST there, based on an ensemble of pacemaker experiments with North Atlantic SST restored to the observation in a coupled general circulation model. The AMO modulates precipitation over the equatorial and tropical southwestern Pacific through exciting an anomalous zonal circulation and an interhemispheric asymmetry of net moist static energy input into the atmosphere. The convective heating associated with the precipitation anomalies drives SST variations in the North Pacific through a teleconnection, but it remarkably weakens the ENSO-like SST anomalies through a thermocline damping effect. This study has implications that the IPO is a combined mode generated by both AMO forcing and local air–sea interactions, but the IPO-related global warming acceleration/slowdown is independent of the AMO.

Open access
Richard Seager, Naomi Henderson, Mark Cane, Honghai Zhang, and Jennifer Nakamura

Abstract

Persistent multiyear cold states of the tropical Pacific Ocean drive hydroclimate anomalies worldwide, including persistent droughts in the extratropical Americas. Here, the atmosphere and ocean dynamics and thermodynamics of multiyear cold states of the tropical Pacific Ocean are investigated using European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts reanalyses and simplified models of the ocean and atmosphere. The cold states are maintained by anomalous ocean heat flux divergence and damped by increased surface heat flux from the atmosphere to ocean. The anomalous ocean heat flux divergence is contributed to by both changes in the ocean circulation and thermal structure. The keys are an anomalously shallow thermocline that enhances cooling by upwelling and anomalous westward equatorial currents that enhance cold advection. The thermocline depth anomalies are shown to be a response to equatorial wind stress anomalies. The wind stress anomalies are shown to be a simple dynamical response to equatorial SST anomalies as mediated by precipitation anomalies. The cold states are fundamentally maintained by atmosphere–ocean coupling in the equatorial Pacific. The physical processes that maintain the cold states are well approximated by linear dynamics for ocean and atmosphere and simple thermodynamics.

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