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Larissa Back, Karen Russ, Zhengyu Liu, Kuniaki Inoue, Jiaxu Zhang, and Bette Otto-Bliesner

Abstract

This study analyzes the response of global water vapor to global warming in a series of fully coupled climate model simulations. The authors find that a roughly 7% K−1 rate of increase of water vapor with global surface temperature is robust only for rapid anthropogenic-like climate change. For slower warming that occurred naturally in the past, the Southern Ocean has time to equilibrate, producing a different pattern of surface warming, so that water vapor increases at only 4.2% K−1. This lower rate of increase of water vapor with warming is not due to relative humidity changes or differences in mean lower-tropospheric temperature. A temperature of over 80°C would be required in the Clausius–Clapeyron relationship to match the 4.2% K−1 rate of increase. Instead, the low rate of increase is due to spatially heterogeneous warming. During slower global warming, there is enhanced warming at southern high latitudes, and hence less warming in the tropics per kelvin of global surface temperature increase. This leads to a smaller global water vapor increase, because most of the atmospheric water vapor is in the tropics. A formula is proposed that applies to general warming scenarios. This study also examines the response of global-mean precipitation and the meridional profile of precipitation minus evaporation and compares the latter to thermodynamic scalings. It is found that global-mean precipitation changes are remarkably robust between rapid and slow warming. Thermodynamic scalings for the rapid- and slow-warming zonal-mean precipitation are similar, but the precipitation changes are significantly different, suggesting that circulation changes are important in driving these differences.

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Juan Feng, Jianping Li, Feifei Jin, Zhengyu Liu, Xing Nan, and Yipeng Guo

Abstract

The impacts of different meridional structures of tropical sea surface temperature (SST) on the Hadley circulation (HC) in the annual mean are investigated during the period 1948–2013. By decomposing the variations in SST and the HC into two components—that is, the equatorially asymmetric (SEA for SST, and HEA for HC) and the equatorially symmetric (SES for SST, and HES for HC) parts—it is shown that the long-term variability in SEA and SES captures well the temporal variations in equatorially asymmetric and symmetric variations in SST. The variation in HEA is closely linked to that of SEA, and the variation in HES is connected with that of SES. However, the response of HEA to a given amplitude variation in SEA is stronger (by ~5 times) than that of HES to the same amplitude variation in SES. This point is further verified by theoretical and numerical models, indicating that the meridional structure of SST plays a crucial role in determining the anomalies in HC. This result may explain why the principal mode of HC is dominated by an equatorially asymmetric mode in its long-term variability.

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Michael Notaro, Zhengyu Liu, Robert Gallimore, Stephen J. Vavrus, John E. Kutzbach, I. Colin Prentice, and Robert L. Jacob

Abstract

Rising levels of carbon dioxide since the preindustrial era have likely contributed to an observed warming of the global surface, and observations show global greening and an expansion of boreal forests. This study reproduces observed climate and vegetation trends associated with rising CO2 using a fully coupled atmosphere–ocean–land surface GCM with dynamic vegetation and decomposes the effects into physiological and radiative components. The simulated warming trend, strongest at high latitudes, was dominated by the radiative effect, although the physiological effect of CO2 on vegetation (CO2 fertilization) contributed to significant wintertime warming over northern Europe and central and eastern Asia. The net global greening of the model was primarily due to the physiological effect of increasing CO2, while the radiative and physiological effects combined to produce a poleward expansion of the boreal forests. Observed and simulated trends in tree ring width are consistent with the enhancement of vegetation growth by the physiological effect of rising CO2.

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Arthur J. Miller, Michael A. Alexander, George J. Boer, Fei Chai, Ken Denman, David J. Erickson III, Robert Frouin, Albert J. Gabric, Edward A. Laws, Marlon R. Lewis, Zhengyu Liu, Ragu Murtugudde, Shoichiro Nakamoto, Douglas J. Neilson, Joel R. Norris, J. Carter Ohlmann, R. Ian Perry, Niklas Schneider, Karen M. Shell, and Axel Timmermann
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