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Buwen Dong, Rowan T. Sutton, Len Shaffrey, and Nicholas P. Klingaman

Abstract

There is still no consensus about the best methodology for attributing observed changes in climate or climate events. One widely used approach relies on experiments in which the time periods of interest are simulated using an atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) forced by prescribed sea surface temperatures (SSTs), with and without estimated anthropogenic influences. A potential limitation of such experiments is the lack of explicit atmosphere–ocean coupling; therefore a key question is whether the attribution statements derived from such studies are in fact robust. In this research the authors have carried out climate model experiments to test attribution conclusions in a situation where the answer is known—a so-called perfect model approach. The study involves comparing attribution conclusions for decadal changes derived from experiments with a coupled climate model (specifically an AGCM coupled to an ocean mixed-layer model) with conclusions derived from parallel experiments with the same AGCM forced by SSTs derived from the coupled model simulations. Results indicate that attribution conclusions for surface air temperature changes derived from AGCM experiments are generally robust and not sensitive to air–sea coupling. However, changes in seasonal mean and extreme precipitations, and circulation in some regions, show large sensitivity to air–sea coupling, notably in the summer monsoons over East Asia and Australia. Comparison with observed changes indicates that the coupled simulations generally agree better with observations. These results demonstrate that the AGCM-based attribution method has limitations and may lead to erroneous attribution conclusions in some regions for local circulation and mean and extreme precipitation. The coupled mixed-layer model used in this study offers an alternative and, in some respects, superior tool for attribution studies.

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Buwen Dong, Rowan Sutton, Len Shaffrey, and Laura Wilcox
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Nicholas M. J. Hall, Paul J. Valdes, and Buwen Dong

Abstract

A 5-yr simulation of the last glacial maximum using the UGAMP GCM is presented. It has a full seasonal cycle, T42 resolution, and interactive land surface and sea ice. Boundary conditions of SST, sea ice extent and land ice elevation are taken from the CLIMAP dataset and orbital parameters and carbon dioxide concentration are adjusted. It is compared with a 10-yr simulation of present-day climate using the same model.

The results are analyzed in terms of processes leading to the maintenance of the atmospheric circulation and temperature structure, midlatitude transient behavior, precipitation, and eventually accumulation of ice over the glaciers. The model responds in a similar manner to previous studies in global mean statistics but differs in its treatment of regional climates. Changes in sea ice and orography are equally important in determining the positions of the upper-level jets. The Atlantic jet and storm track in particular are much stronger than in the present-day simulation, and the associated distribution of precipitation and snowfall changes accordingly. Both major ice sheets are maintained by snowfall at the center and ablation at the edges at a reasonable rate through the annual cycle.

The results with a full seasonal cycle are compared to perpetual integrations by the authors and found to be very similar in most measures.

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Albert Ossó, Rowan Sutton, Len Shaffrey, and Buwen Dong

Abstract

A recent study identified a relationship between North Atlantic Ocean sea surface temperature (SST) gradients in spring and a specific pattern of atmospheric circulation in the following summer: the summer east Atlantic (SEA) pattern. It was shown that the SEA pattern is closely associated with meridional shifts in the eddy-driven jet in response to anomalous SST gradients. In this study, the physical mechanisms underlying this relationship are investigated further. It is shown that the predictable SEA pattern anomalies appear in June–July and undergo substantial amplification between July and August before decaying in September. The associated SST anomalies also grow in magnitude and spatial extent from June to August. The question of why the predictable atmospheric anomalies should occur in summer is addressed, and three factors are identified. The first is the climatological position of the storm track, which migrates poleward from spring to summer. The second is that the magnitude of interannual SST variability underlying the storm track peaks in summer, both in absolute terms, and relative to the underlying mean SST gradient. The third factor is the most interesting. We identify a positive coupled ocean–atmosphere feedback, which operates in summer and leads to the amplification of both SST and atmospheric circulation anomalies. The extent to which the identified processes are captured in the HadGEM3-GC2 climate model is also assessed. The model is able to capture the relationship between spring North Atlantic SSTs and subsequent ocean–atmosphere conditions in early summer, but the relationship is too weak. The results suggest that the real world might be more predictable than is inferred from the models.

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Buwen Dong, Rowan T. Sutton, Ellie Highwood, and Laura Wilcox

Abstract

In this study, the atmospheric component of a state-of-the-art climate model [the Hadley Centre Global Environment Model, version 2–Earth System (HadGEM2-ES)] has been used to investigate the impacts of regional anthropogenic sulfur dioxide emissions on boreal summer Sahel rainfall. The study focuses on the transient response of the West African monsoon (WAM) to a sudden change in regional anthropogenic sulfur dioxide emissions, including land surface feedbacks but without sea surface temperature (SST) feedbacks. The response occurs in two distinct phases: 1) fast adjustment of the atmosphere on a time scale of days to weeks (up to 3 weeks) through aerosol–radiation and aerosol–cloud interactions with weak hydrological cycle changes and surface feedbacks and 2) adjustment of the atmosphere and land surface with significant local hydrological cycle changes and changes in atmospheric circulation (beyond 3 weeks).

European emissions lead to an increase in shortwave (SW) scattering by increased sulfate burden, leading to a decrease in surface downward SW radiation that causes surface cooling over North Africa, a weakening of the Saharan heat low and WAM, and a decrease in Sahel precipitation. In contrast, Asian emissions lead to very little change in sulfate burden over North Africa, but they induce an adjustment of the Walker circulation, which leads again to a weakening of the WAM and a decrease in Sahel precipitation. The responses to European and Asian emissions during the second phase exhibit similar large-scale patterns of anomalous atmospheric circulation and hydrological variables, suggesting a preferred response. The results support the idea that sulfate aerosol emissions contributed to the observed decline in Sahel precipitation in the second half of the twentieth century.

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Buwen Dong, Jonathan M. Gregory, and Rowan T. Sutton

Abstract

Climate model simulations consistently show that surface temperature over land increases more rapidly than over sea in response to greenhouse gas forcing. The enhanced warming over land is not simply a transient effect caused by the land–sea contrast in heat capacities, since it is also present in equilibrium conditions. This paper elucidates the transient adjustment processes over time scales of days to weeks of the surface and tropospheric climate in response to a doubling of CO2 and to changes in sea surface temperature (SST), imposed separately and together, using ensembles of experiments with an atmospheric general circulation model. These adjustment processes can be grouped into three stages: immediate response of the troposphere and surface processes (day 1), fast adjustment of surface processes (days 2–5), and adjustment of the whole troposphere (days 6–20).

Some land surface warming in response to doubled CO2 (with unchanged SSTs) occurs immediately because of increased downward longwave radiation. Increased CO2 also leads to reduced plant stomatal resistance and hence restricted evaporation, which increases land surface warming in the first day. Rapid reductions in cloud amount lead in the next few days to increased downward shortwave radiation and further warming, which spreads upward from the surface, and by day 5 the surface and tropospheric response is statistically consistent with the equilibrium value. Land surface warming in response to imposed SST change (with unchanged CO2) is slower. Tropospheric warming is advected inland from the sea, and over land it occurs at all levels together rather than spreading upward from the surface. The atmospheric response to prescribed SST change in about 20 days is statistically consistent with the equilibrium value, and the warming is largest in the upper troposphere over both land and sea. The land surface warming involves reduction of cloud cover and increased downward shortwave radiation, as in the experiment with CO2 change, but in this case it is due to the restriction of moisture supply to the land (indicated by reduced soil moisture), whereas in the CO2 forcing experiment it is due to restricted evaporation despite increased moisture supply (indicated by increased soil moisture). The warming over land in response to SST change is greater than over the sea and is the dominant contribution to the land–sea warming contrast under enhanced CO2 forcing.

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Wei Chen, Buwen Dong, Laura Wilcox, Feifei Luo, Nick Dunstone, and Eleanor J. Highwood

ABSTRACT

Observations indicate large changes in temperature extremes over China during the last four decades, exhibiting as significant increases in the amplitude and frequency of hot extremes and decreases in the amplitude and frequency of cold extremes. An ensemble of transient experiments with the fully coupled atmosphere–ocean model HadGEM3-GC2, including both anthropogenic forcing and natural forcing, successfully reproduces the spatial pattern and magnitude of observed historical trends in both hot and cold extremes. The model-simulated trends in temperature extremes primarily come from the positive trends in clear-sky longwave radiation, which is mainly due to the increases in greenhouse gases (GHGs). An ensemble of sensitivity experiments with Asian anthropogenic aerosol (AA) emissions fixed at their 1970s levels tends to overestimate the trends in temperature extremes, indicating that local AA emission changes have moderated the trends in these temperature extremes over China. The recent increases in Asian AA drive cooling trends over China by inducing negative clear-sky shortwave radiation directly through the aerosol–radiation interaction, which partly offsets the strong warming effect by GHG changes. The cooling trends induced by Asian AA changes are weaker over northern China during summer, which is due to the warming effect by the positive shortwave cloud radiative effect through the AA-induced atmosphere–cloud feedback. This accounts for the observed north–south gradients of the historical trends in some temperature extremes over China, highlighting the importance of local Asian AA emission changes on spatial heterogeneity of trends in temperature extremes.

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Chunhui Lu, Jie Jiang, Ruidan Chen, Safi Ullah, Rong Yu, Fraser C. Lott, Simon F. B. Tett, and Buwen Dong
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Zhiyuan Hu, Haiyan Li, Jiawei Liu, Shaobo Qiao, Dongqian Wang, Nicolas Freychet, Simon F. B. Tett, Buwen Dong, Fraser C. Lott, Qingxiang Li, and Wenjie Dong
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Cheng Qian, Jun Wang, Siyan Dong, Hong Yin, Claire Burke, Andrew Ciavarella, Buwen Dong, Nicolas Freychet, Fraser C. Lott, and Simon F. B. Tett
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