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Richard G. Williams
,
Vassil Roussenov
,
M. Susan Lozier
, and
Doug Smith

Abstract

In the North Atlantic, there are pronounced gyre-scale changes in ocean heat content on interannual-to-decadal time scales, which are associated with changes in both sea surface temperature and thermocline thickness; the subtropics are often warm with a thick thermocline when the subpolar gyre is cool with a thin thermocline, and vice versa. This climate variability is investigated using a semidiagnostic dynamical analysis of historical temperature and salinity data from 1962 to 2011 together with idealized isopycnic model experiments. On time scales of typically 5 yr, the tendencies in upper-ocean heat content are not simply explained by the area-averaged atmospheric forcing for each gyre but instead dominated by heat convergences associated with the meridional overturning circulation. In the subtropics, the most pronounced warming events are associated with an increased influx of tropical heat driven by stronger trade winds. In the subpolar gyre, the warming and cooling events are associated with changes in western boundary density, where increasing Labrador Sea density leads to an enhanced overturning and an influx of subtropical heat. Thus, upper-ocean heat content anomalies are formed in a different manner in the subtropical and subpolar gyres, with different components of the meridional overturning circulation probably excited by the local imprint of atmospheric forcing.

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David P. Marshall
,
Richard G. Williams
, and
Mei-Man Lee

Abstract

The dynamical control of the eddy-induced transport is investigated in a series of idealized eddy-resolving experiments. When there is an active eddy field, the eddy-induced transport is found to correlate with isopycnic gradients of potential vorticity, rather than gradients of layer thickness. For any unforced layers, the eddy transfer leads to a homogenization of potential vorticity and a vanishing of the eddy-induced transport in the final steady state.

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Richard G. Williams
,
Vassil Roussenov
,
Doug Smith
, and
M. Susan Lozier

Abstract

Basin-scale thermal anomalies in the North Atlantic, extending to depths of 1–2 km, are more pronounced than the background warming over the last 60 years. A dynamical analysis based on reanalyses of historical data from 1965 to 2000 suggests that these thermal anomalies are formed by ocean heat convergences, augmented by the poorly known air–sea fluxes. The heat convergence is separated into contributions from the horizontal circulation and the meridional overturning circulation (MOC), the latter further separated into Ekman and MOC transport minus Ekman transport (MOC-Ekman) cells. The subtropical thermal anomalies are mainly controlled by wind-induced changes in the Ekman heat convergence, while the subpolar thermal anomalies are controlled by the MOC-Ekman heat convergence; the horizontal heat convergence is generally weaker, only becoming significant within the subpolar gyre. These thermal anomalies often have an opposing sign between the subtropical and subpolar gyres, associated with opposing changes in the meridional volume transport driving the Ekman and MOC-Ekman heat convergences. These changes in gyre-scale convergences in heat transport are probably induced by the winds, as they correlate with the zonal wind stress at gyre boundaries.

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Jane O’Dwyer
,
Richard G. Williams
,
Joseph H. LaCasce
, and
Kevin G. Speer

Abstract

Float trajectories are compared with the distribution of climatological potential vorticity, Q, on approximate isentropic surfaces for intermediate waters in the North Atlantic. The time-mean displacement and eddy dispersion are calculated for clusters of floats in terms of their movement along and across Q contours. For float clusters with significant mean velocities, the mean flow crosses Q contours at an angle of typically less than 20°–30° in magnitude in the ocean interior. The implied Peclet number in the ocean interior ranges from 1 to 19 with a weighted-mean value of 4.4. This mean Peclet number suggests that there is significant eddy mixing in the ocean interior: tracers should only be quasi-conserved along mean streamlines over a subbasin scale, rather than over an entire basin. The mean flow also strongly crosses Q contours near the western boundary in the Tropics, where the implied Peclet number is 0.7; this value may be a lower bound as Q contours are assumed to be zonal and relative vorticity is ignored. Float clusters with a lifetime greater than 200 days show anisotropic dispersion with greater dispersion along Q contours, than across them; float clusters with shorter lifetimes are ambiguous. This anisotropic dispersion along Q contours cannot generally be distinguished from enhanced dispersion along latitude circles since Q contours are generally zonal for these cases. However, for the null case of uniform Q for the Gulf Stream at 2000 m, there is strong isotropic dispersion, rather than enhanced zonal dispersion. In summary, diagnostics suggest that floats preferentially spread along Q contours over a subbasin scale and imply that passive tracers should likewise preferentially spread along Q contours in the ocean interior.

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Richard G. Williams
,
Vassil Roussenov
,
Philip Goodwin
,
Laure Resplandy
, and
Laurent Bopp

Abstract

Climate projections reveal global-mean surface warming increasing nearly linearly with cumulative carbon emissions. The sensitivity of surface warming to carbon emissions is interpreted in terms of a product of three terms: the dependence of surface warming on radiative forcing, the fractional radiative forcing from CO2, and the dependence of radiative forcing from CO2 on carbon emissions. Mechanistically each term varies, respectively, with climate sensitivity and ocean heat uptake, radiative forcing contributions, and ocean and terrestrial carbon uptake. The sensitivity of surface warming to fossil-fuel carbon emissions is examined using an ensemble of Earth system models, forced either by an annual increase in atmospheric CO2 or by RCPs until year 2100. The sensitivity of surface warming to carbon emissions is controlled by a temporal decrease in the dependence of radiative forcing from CO2 on carbon emissions, which is partly offset by a temporal increase in the dependence of surface warming on radiative forcing. The decrease in the dependence of radiative forcing from CO2 is due to a decline in the ratio of the global ocean carbon undersaturation to carbon emissions, while the increase in the dependence of surface warming is due to a decline in the ratio of ocean heat uptake to radiative forcing. At the present time, there are large intermodel differences in the sensitivity in surface warming to carbon emissions, which are mainly due to uncertainties in the climate sensitivity and ocean heat uptake. These uncertainties undermine the ability to predict how much carbon may be emitted before reaching a warming target.

Open access
Liping Ma
,
Tim Woollings
,
Richard G. Williams
,
Doug Smith
, and
Nick Dunstone

Abstract

The role of the atmospheric jet stream in driving patterns of surface heat flux, changes in sea surface temperature, and sea ice fraction is explored for the winter North Atlantic. Seasonal time-scale ensemble hindcasts from the Met Office Hadley Centre are analyzed for each winter from 1980 to 2014, which for each year includes 40 ensemble members initialized at the start of November. The spread between ensemble members that develops during a season is interpreted to represent the ocean response to stochastic atmospheric variability. The seasonal coupling between the winter atmosphere and the ocean over much of the North Atlantic reveals anomalies in surface heat loss driving anomalies in the tendency of sea surface temperature. The atmospheric jet, defined either by its speed or latitude, strongly controls the winter pattern of air–sea latent and sensible heat flux anomalies, and subsequent sea surface temperature anomalies. On time scales of several months, the effect of jet speed is more pronounced than that of jet latitude on the surface ocean response, although the effect of jet latitude is important in altering the extent of the ocean subtropical and subpolar gyres. A strong jet or high jet latitude increases sea ice fraction over the Labrador Sea due to the enhanced transport of cold air from west Greenland, while sea ice fraction decreases along the east side of Greenland due either to warm air advection or a strong northerly wind along the east Greenland coast blowing surface ice away from the Fram Strait.

Open access
A. Park Williams
,
Richard Seager
,
Max Berkelhammer
,
Alison K. Macalady
,
Michael A. Crimmins
,
Thomas W. Swetnam
,
Anna T. Trugman
,
Nikolaus Buenning
,
Natalia Hryniw
,
Nate G. McDowell
,
David Noone
,
Claudia I. Mora
, and
Thom Rahn

Abstract

In 2011, exceptionally low atmospheric moisture content combined with moderately high temperatures to produce a record-high vapor pressure deficit (VPD) in the southwestern United States (SW). These conditions combined with record-low cold-season precipitation to cause widespread drought and extreme wildfires. Although interannual VPD variability is generally dominated by temperature, high VPD in 2011 was also driven by a lack of atmospheric moisture. The May–July 2011 dewpoint in the SW was 4.5 standard deviations below the long-term mean. Lack of atmospheric moisture was promoted by already very dry soils and amplified by a strong ocean-to-continent sea level pressure gradient and upper-level convergence that drove dry northerly winds and subsidence upwind of and over the SW. Subsidence drove divergence of rapid and dry surface winds over the SW, suppressing southerly moisture imports and removing moisture from already dry soils. Model projections developed for the fifth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) suggest that by the 2050s warming trends will cause mean warm-season VPD to be comparable to the record-high VPD observed in 2011. CMIP5 projections also suggest increased interannual variability of VPD, independent of trends in background mean levels, as a result of increased variability of dewpoint, temperature, vapor pressure, and saturation vapor pressure. Increased variability in VPD translates to increased probability of 2011-type VPD anomalies, which would be superimposed on ever-greater background VPD levels. Although temperature will continue to be the primary driver of interannual VPD variability, 2011 served as an important reminder that atmospheric moisture content can also drive impactful VPD anomalies.

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Nilton O. Rennó
,
Earle Williams
,
Daniel Rosenfeld
,
David G. Fischer
,
Jürgen Fischer
,
Tibor Kremic
,
Arun Agrawal
,
Meinrat O. Andreae
,
Rosina Bierbaum
,
Richard Blakeslee
,
Anko Boerner
,
Neil Bowles
,
Hugh Christian
,
Ann Cox
,
Jason Dunion
,
Akos Horvath
,
Xianglei Huang
,
Alexander Khain
,
Stefan Kinne
,
Maria C. Lemos
,
Joyce E. Penner
,
Ulrich Pöschl
,
Johannes Quaas
,
Elena Seran
,
Bjorn Stevens
,
Thomas Walati
, and
Thomas Wagner

The formation of cloud droplets on aerosol particles, technically known as the activation of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN), is the fundamental process driving the interactions of aerosols with clouds and precipitation. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Decadal Survey indicate that the uncertainty in how clouds adjust to aerosol perturbations dominates the uncertainty in the overall quantification of the radiative forcing attributable to human activities.

Measurements by current satellites allow the determination of crude profiles of cloud particle size, but not of the activated CCN that seed them. The Clouds, Hazards, and Aerosols Survey for Earth Researchers (CHASER) mission concept responds to the IPCC and Decadal Survey concerns, utilizing a new technique and high-heritage instruments to measure all the quantities necessary to produce the first global survey maps of activated CCN and the properties of the clouds associated with them. CHASER also determines the activated CCN concentration and cloud thermodynamic forcing simultaneously, allowing the effects of each to be distinguished.

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David C. Fritts
,
Ronald B. Smith
,
Michael J. Taylor
,
James D. Doyle
,
Stephen D. Eckermann
,
Andreas Dörnbrack
,
Markus Rapp
,
Bifford P. Williams
,
P.-Dominique Pautet
,
Katrina Bossert
,
Neal R. Criddle
,
Carolyn A. Reynolds
,
P. Alex Reinecke
,
Michael Uddstrom
,
Michael J. Revell
,
Richard Turner
,
Bernd Kaifler
,
Johannes S. Wagner
,
Tyler Mixa
,
Christopher G. Kruse
,
Alison D. Nugent
,
Campbell D. Watson
,
Sonja Gisinger
,
Steven M. Smith
,
Ruth S. Lieberman
,
Brian Laughman
,
James J. Moore
,
William O. Brown
,
Julie A. Haggerty
,
Alison Rockwell
,
Gregory J. Stossmeister
,
Steven F. Williams
,
Gonzalo Hernandez
,
Damian J. Murphy
,
Andrew R. Klekociuk
,
Iain M. Reid
, and
Jun Ma

Abstract

The Deep Propagating Gravity Wave Experiment (DEEPWAVE) was designed to quantify gravity wave (GW) dynamics and effects from orographic and other sources to regions of dissipation at high altitudes. The core DEEPWAVE field phase took place from May through July 2014 using a comprehensive suite of airborne and ground-based instruments providing measurements from Earth’s surface to ∼100 km. Austral winter was chosen to observe deep GW propagation to high altitudes. DEEPWAVE was based on South Island, New Zealand, to provide access to the New Zealand and Tasmanian “hotspots” of GW activity and additional GW sources over the Southern Ocean and Tasman Sea. To observe GWs up to ∼100 km, DEEPWAVE utilized three new instruments built specifically for the National Science Foundation (NSF)/National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Gulfstream V (GV): a Rayleigh lidar, a sodium resonance lidar, and an advanced mesosphere temperature mapper. These measurements were supplemented by in situ probes, dropsondes, and a microwave temperature profiler on the GV and by in situ probes and a Doppler lidar aboard the German DLR Falcon. Extensive ground-based instrumentation and radiosondes were deployed on South Island, Tasmania, and Southern Ocean islands. Deep orographic GWs were a primary target but multiple flights also observed deep GWs arising from deep convection, jet streams, and frontal systems. Highlights include the following: 1) strong orographic GW forcing accompanying strong cross-mountain flows, 2) strong high-altitude responses even when orographic forcing was weak, 3) large-scale GWs at high altitudes arising from jet stream sources, and 4) significant flight-level energy fluxes and often very large momentum fluxes at high altitudes.

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M. Susan Lozier
,
Sheldon Bacon
,
Amy S. Bower
,
Stuart A. Cunningham
,
M. Femke de Jong
,
Laura de Steur
,
Brad deYoung
,
Jürgen Fischer
,
Stefan F. Gary
,
Blair J. W. Greenan
,
Patrick Heimbach
,
Naomi P. Holliday
,
Loïc Houpert
,
Mark E. Inall
,
William E. Johns
,
Helen L. Johnson
,
Johannes Karstensen
,
Feili Li
,
Xiaopei Lin
,
Neill Mackay
,
David P. Marshall
,
Herlé Mercier
,
Paul G. Myers
,
Robert S. Pickart
,
Helen R. Pillar
,
Fiammetta Straneo
,
Virginie Thierry
,
Robert A. Weller
,
Richard G. Williams
,
Chris Wilson
,
Jiayan Yang
,
Jian Zhao
, and
Jan D. Zika

Abstract

For decades oceanographers have understood the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) to be primarily driven by changes in the production of deep-water formation in the subpolar and subarctic North Atlantic. Indeed, current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections of an AMOC slowdown in the twenty-first century based on climate models are attributed to the inhibition of deep convection in the North Atlantic. However, observational evidence for this linkage has been elusive: there has been no clear demonstration of AMOC variability in response to changes in deep-water formation. The motivation for understanding this linkage is compelling, since the overturning circulation has been shown to sequester heat and anthropogenic carbon in the deep ocean. Furthermore, AMOC variability is expected to impact this sequestration as well as have consequences for regional and global climates through its effect on the poleward transport of warm water. Motivated by the need for a mechanistic understanding of the AMOC, an international community has assembled an observing system, Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program (OSNAP), to provide a continuous record of the transbasin fluxes of heat, mass, and freshwater, and to link that record to convective activity and water mass transformation at high latitudes. OSNAP, in conjunction with the Rapid Climate Change–Meridional Overturning Circulation and Heatflux Array (RAPID–MOCHA) at 26°N and other observational elements, will provide a comprehensive measure of the three-dimensional AMOC and an understanding of what drives its variability. The OSNAP observing system was fully deployed in the summer of 2014, and the first OSNAP data products are expected in the fall of 2017.

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