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Harry H. Hendon
,
David W. J. Thompson
, and
Matthew C. Wheeler

Abstract

Daily variations in Australian rainfall and surface temperature associated with the Southern Hemisphere annular mode (SAM) are documented using observations for the period 1979–2005. The high index polarity of the SAM is characterized by a poleward contraction of the midlatitude westerlies. During winter, the high index polarity of the SAM is associated with decreased daily rainfall over southeast and southwest Australia, but during summer it is associated with increased daily rainfall on the southern east coast of Australia and decreased rainfall in western Tasmania. Variations in the SAM explain up to ∼15% of the weekly rainfall variance in these regions, which is comparable to the variance accounted for by the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, especially during winter. The most widespread temperature anomalies associated with the SAM occur during the spring and summer seasons, when the high index polarity of the SAM is associated with anomalously low maximum temperature over most of central/eastern subtropical Australia. The regions of decreased maximum temperature are also associated with increased rainfall. Implications for recent trends in Australian rainfall and temperature are discussed.

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David W. J. Thompson
,
Mark P. Baldwin
, and
John M. Wallace

Abstract

The dynamical coupling between the stratospheric and tropospheric circulations yields a statistically significant level of potential predictability for extreme cold events throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere (NH) mid–high latitudes on both month-to-month and winter-to-winter timescales. Pronounced weakenings of the NH wintertime stratospheric polar vortex tend to be followed by episodes of anomalously low surface air temperatures and increased frequency of occurrence of extreme cold events throughout densely populated regions such as eastern North America, northern Europe, and eastern Asia that persist for ∼2 months. Strengthenings of the vortex tend to be followed by surface temperature anomalies in the opposite sense. During midwinter, the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) in the equatorial stratosphere has a similar but somewhat weaker impact on NH weather, presumably through its impact on the strength and stability of the stratospheric polar vortex; that is, the easterly phase of the QBO favors an increased incidence of extreme cold events, and vice versa. The signature of the QBO in NH wintertime temperatures is roughly comparable in amplitude to that observed in relation to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation phenomenon.

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Kathryn L. Verlinden
,
David W. J. Thompson
, and
Graeme L. Stephens

Abstract

The authors exploit three years of data from the CloudSat and Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellites to document for the first time the seasonally varying vertical structure of cloudiness throughout Antarctica and the high-latitude Southern Ocean. The results provide a baseline reference of Southern Hemisphere high-latitude cloudiness for future observational and modeling studies, and they highlight several previously undocumented aspects and key features of Antarctic cloudiness.

The key features of high-latitude Southern Hemisphere cloudiness documented here include 1) a pronounced seasonal cycle in cloudiness over the high-latitude Southern Hemisphere, with higher cloud incidences generally found during the winter season over both the Southern Ocean and Antarctica; 2) two distinct maxima in vertical profiles of cloud incidence over the Southern Ocean, one centered near the surface and another centered in the upper troposphere; 3) a nearly discontinuous drop-off in cloudiness near 8 km over much of the continent that peaks during autumn, winter, and spring; 4) large east–west gradients in upper-level cloudiness in the vicinity of the Antarctic Peninsula that peak during the austral spring season; and 5) evidence that cloudiness in the polar stratosphere is marked not by a secondary maximum at stratospheric levels but by a nearly monotonic decrease with height from the tropopause.

Key results are interpreted in the context of the seasonally varying profiles of vertical motion and static stability and compared with results of previous studies.

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Ying Li
,
David W. J. Thompson
, and
Sandrine Bony

Abstract

The influence of clouds on the large-scale atmospheric circulation is examined in numerical simulations from an atmospheric general circulation model run with and without atmospheric cloud radiative effects (ACRE). In the extratropics of both hemispheres, the primary impacts of ACRE on the circulation include 1) increases in the meridional temperature gradient and decreases in static stability in the midlatitude upper troposphere, 2) strengthening of the midlatitude jet, 3) increases in extratropical eddy kinetic energy by up to 30%, and 4) increases in precipitation at middle latitudes but decreases at subtropical latitudes. In the tropics, the primary impacts of ACRE include 1) eastward wind anomalies in the tropical upper troposphere–lower stratosphere (UTLS) and 2) reductions in tropical precipitation. The impacts of ACRE on the atmospheric circulation are interpreted in the context of a series of dynamical and physical processes. The changes in the extratropical circulation and precipitation are consistent with the influence of ACRE on the baroclinicity and eddy fluxes of momentum in the extratropical upper troposphere, the changes in the zonal wind in the UTLS with the influence of ACRE on the amplitude of the equatorial planetary waves, and the changes in the tropical precipitation with the energetic constraints on the tropical troposphere. The results make clear that ACRE have a pronounced influence on the atmospheric circulation not only at tropical latitudes, but at extratropical latitudes as well. They highlight the critical importance of correctly simulating ACRE in global climate models.

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Kevin M. Grise
,
David W. J. Thompson
, and
Thomas Birner

Abstract

Static stability is a fundamental dynamical quantity that measures the vertical temperature stratification of the atmosphere. However, the magnitude and structure of finescale features in this field are difficult to discern in temperature data with low vertical resolution. In this study, the authors apply more than six years of high vertical resolution global positioning system radio occultation temperature profiles to document the long-term mean structure and variability of the global static stability field in the stratosphere and upper troposphere.

The most pronounced feature in the long-term mean static stability field is the well-known transition from low values in the troposphere to high values in the stratosphere. Superposed on this general structure are a series of finer-scale features: a minimum in static stability in the tropical upper troposphere, a broad band of high static stability in the tropical stratosphere, increases in static stability within the core of the stratospheric polar vortices, and a shallow but pronounced maximum in static stability just above the tropopause at all latitudes [i.e., the “tropopause inversion layer” (TIL)].

The results shown here provide the first global survey of static stability using high vertical resolution data and also uncover two novel aspects of the static stability field. In the tropical lower stratosphere, the results reveal a unique vertically and horizontally varying static stability structure, with maxima located at ∼17 and ∼19 km. The upper feature peaks during the NH cold season and has its largest magnitude between 10° and 15° latitude in both hemispheres; the lower feature exhibits a weaker seasonal cycle and is centered at the equator. The results also demonstrate that the strength of the TIL is closely tied to stratospheric dynamic variability. The magnitude of the TIL is enhanced following sudden stratospheric warmings in the polar regions and the easterly phase of the quasi-biennial oscillation in the tropics.

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Lina Boljka
,
David W. J. Thompson
, and
Ying Li

Abstract

Baroclinic waves drive both regional variations in weather and large-scale variability in the extratropical general circulation. They generally do not exist in isolation, but rather often form into coherent wave packets that propagate to the east via a mechanism called downstream development. Downstream development has been widely documented and explored. Here we document a novel but also key aspect of baroclinic waves: the downstream suppression of baroclinic activity that occurs in the wake of eastward propagating disturbances. Downstream suppression is apparent not only in the Southern Hemisphere storm track as shown in previous work, but also in the North Pacific and North Atlantic storm tracks. It plays an essential role in driving subseasonal periodicity in extratropical eddy activity in both hemispheres, and gives rise to the observed quiescence of the North Atlantic storm track 1–2 weeks following pronounced eddy activity in the North Pacific sector. It is argued that downstream suppression results from the anomalously low baroclinicity that arises as eastward propagating wave packets convert potential to kinetic energy. In contrast to baroclinic wave packets, which propagate to the east at roughly the group velocity in the upper troposphere, the suppression of baroclinic activity propagates eastward at a slower rate that is comparable to that of the lower to midtropospheric flow. The results have implications for understanding subseasonal variability in the extratropical troposphere of both hemispheres.

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Luke L. B. Davis
,
David W. J. Thompson
, and
Thomas Birner

Abstract

Thermodynamical and dynamical aspects of the climate system response to anthropogenic forcing are often considered in two distinct frameworks: the former in the context of the forcing–feedback framework, and the latter in the context of eddy–mean flow feedbacks and large-scale thermodynamic constraints. Here we use experiments with the dynamical core of a general circulation model (GCM) to provide insights into the relationships between these two frameworks. We first demonstrate that the climate feedbacks and climate sensitivity in a dynamical core model are determined by its prescribed thermal relaxation time scales. We then perform two experiments: one that explores the relationships between the thermal relaxation time scale and the climatological circulation, and a second that explores the relationships between the thermal relaxation time scale and the circulation response to a global warming–like forcing perturbation. The results indicate that shorter relaxation time scales (i.e., lower climate sensitivities in the context of a dynamical core model) are associated with 1) a more vigorous large-scale circulation, including increased thermal diffusivity and stronger and more poleward storm tracks and eddy-driven jets, and 2) a weaker poleward displacement of the storm tracks and eddy-driven jets in response to the global warming–like forcing perturbation. Interestingly, the circulation response to the forcing perturbation effectively disappears when the thermal relaxation time scales are spatially uniform, suggesting that the circulation response to homogeneous forcing requires spatial inhomogeneities in the local feedback parameter. Implications for anticipating the circulation response to global warming and thermodynamic constraints on the circulation are discussed.

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Simchan Yook
,
David W. J. Thompson
,
Lantao Sun
, and
Casey Patrizio

Abstract

Observations reveal two distinct patterns of atmospheric variability associated with wintertime variations in midlatitude sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the North Pacific sector: 1) a pattern of atmospheric circulation anomalies that peaks 2–3 weeks prior to large SST anomalies in the western North Pacific that is consistent with “atmospheric forcing” of the SST field, and 2) a pattern that lags SST anomalies in the western North Pacific by several weeks that is consistent with the “atmospheric response” to the SST field. Here we explore analogous lead–lag relations between the atmospheric circulation and western North Pacific SST anomalies in two sets of simulations run on the NCAR Community Earth System Model version 1 (CESM1): 1) a simulation run on a fully coupled version of CESM1 and 2) a simulation forced with prescribed, time-evolving SST anomalies over the western North Pacific region. Together, the simulations support the interpretation that the observed lead–lag relationships between western North Pacific SST anomalies and the atmospheric circulation reveal the patterns of atmospheric variability that both force and respond to midlatitude SST anomalies. The results provide numerical evidence that SST variability over the western North Pacific has a demonstrable effect on the large-scale atmospheric circulation throughout the North Pacific sector.

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Amy H. Butler
,
David W. J. Thompson
, and
Ross Heikes

Abstract

The steady-state extratropical atmospheric response to thermal forcing is investigated in a simple atmospheric general circulation model. The thermal forcings qualitatively mimic three key aspects of anthropogenic climate change: warming in the tropical troposphere, cooling in the polar stratosphere, and warming at the polar surface. The principal novel findings are the following:

1) Warming in the tropical troposphere drives two robust responses in the model extratropical circulation: poleward shifts in the extratropical tropospheric storm tracks and a weakened stratospheric Brewer–Dobson circulation. The former result suggests heating in the tropical troposphere plays a fundamental role in the poleward contraction of the storm tracks found in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)-class climate change simulations; the latter result is in the opposite sense of the trends in the Brewer–Dobson circulation found in most previous climate change experiments.

2) Cooling in the polar stratosphere also drives a poleward shift in the extratropical storm tracks. The tropospheric response is largely consistent with that found in previous studies, but it is shown to be very sensitive to the level and depth of the forcing. In the stratosphere, the Brewer–Dobson circulation weakens at midlatitudes, but it strengthens at high latitudes because of anomalously poleward heat fluxes on the flank of the polar vortex.

3) Warming at the polar surface drives an equatorward shift of the storm tracks. The storm-track response to polar warming is in the opposite sense of the response to tropical tropospheric heating; hence large warming over the Arctic may act to attenuate the response of the Northern Hemisphere storm track to tropical heating.

4) The signs of the tropospheric and stratospheric responses to all thermal forcings considered here are robust to seasonal changes in the basic state, but the amplitude and details of the responses exhibit noticeable differences between equinoctial and wintertime conditions. Additionally, the responses exhibit marked nonlinearity in the sense that the response to multiple thermal forcings applied simultaneously is quantitatively different from the sum of the responses to the same forcings applied independently. Thus the response of the model to a given thermal forcing is demonstrably dependent on the other thermal forcings applied to the model.

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Ying Li
,
David W. J. Thompson
, and
Dirk Olonscheck

Abstract

Cloud radiative effects (CREs) are known to play a central role in governing the long-term mean distribution of sea surface temperatures (SSTs). Very recent work suggests that CREs may also play a role in governing the variability of SSTs in the context of El Niño–Southern Oscillation. Here, the authors exploit numerical simulations in the Max Planck Institute Earth System Model with two different representations of CREs to demonstrate that coupling between CREs and the atmospheric circulation has a much more general and widespread effect on tropical climate than that indicated in previous work. The results reveal that coupling between CREs and the atmospheric circulation leads to robust increases in SST variability on time scales longer than a month throughout the tropical oceans. Remarkably, cloud–circulation coupling leads to more than a doubling of the amplitude of decadal-scale variability in tropical-mean SSTs. It is argued that the increases in tropical SST variance derive primarily from the coupling between SSTs and shortwave CREs: Coupling increases the memory in shortwave CREs on hourly and daily time scales and thus reddens the spectrum of shortwave CREs and increases their variance on time scales spanning weeks to decades. Coupling between SSTs and CREs does not noticeably affect the variance of SSTs in the extratropics, where the effects from variability in CREs on the surface energy budget are much smaller than the effects from the turbulent heat fluxes. The results indicate a basic but critical role of CREs in climate variability throughout the tropics.

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