Abstract

The Tropical Rain Belts with an Annual Cycle and Continent Model Intercomparison Project (TRACMIP) ensemble—a multimodel ensemble of slab-ocean simulations in idealized configurations—provides a test of the relationship between the zonal mean ITCZ and the cross-equatorial atmospheric energy transports (AHTeq). In a gross sense, the ITCZ position is linearly related to AHTeq, as expected from the energetic framework. Yet, in many aspects, the TRACMIP model simulations do not conform to the framework. Throughout the annual cycle there are large excursions in the ITCZ position unrelated to changes in the AHTeq and, conversely, substantial variations in the magnitude of the AHTeq while the ITCZ is stationary at its northernmost position. Variations both in the net vertical energy input at the ITCZ location and in the vertical profile of ascent play a role in setting the model behavior apart from the conceptual framework. Nevertheless, a linear fit to the ITCZ–AHTeq relationship captures a substantial fraction of the seasonal variations in these quantities as well as the intermodel or across-climate variations in their annual mean values. The slope of the ITCZ–AHTeq linear fit for annual mean changes across simulations with different forcings and configurations varies in magnitude and even sign from model to model and we identify variations in the vertical profile of ascent as a key factor. A simple sea surface temperature–based index avoids the complication of changes in the vertical structure of the atmospheric circulation and provides a more reliable diagnostic for the ITCZ position.

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