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Sophie C. Lewis and David J. Karoly

Abstract

Diurnal temperature range (DTR) is a useful index of climatic change in addition to mean temperature changes. Observational records indicate that DTR has decreased over the last 50 yr because of differential changes in minimum and maximum temperatures. However, modeled changes in DTR in previous climate model simulations of this period are smaller than those observed, primarily because of an overestimate of changes in maximum temperatures. This present study examines DTR trends using the latest generation of global climate models participating in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) and utilizes the novel CMIP5 detection and attribution experimental design of variously forced historical simulations (natural-only, greenhouse gas–only, and all anthropogenic and natural forcings). Comparison of observed and modeled changes in DTR over the period of 1951–2005 again reveals that global DTR trends are lower in model simulations than observed across the 27-member multimodel ensemble analyzed here. Modeled DTR trends are similar for both experiments incorporating all forcings and for the historical experiment with greenhouse gases only, while no DTR trend is discernible in the naturally forced historical experiment. The persistent underestimate of DTR changes in this latest multimodel evaluation appears to be related to ubiquitous model deficiencies in cloud cover and land surface processes that impact the accurate simulation of regional minimum or maximum temperatures changes observed during this period. Different model processes are likely responsible for subdued simulated DTR trends over the various analyzed regions.

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Brian J. Hoskins and David J. Karoly

Abstract

Motivated by some results from barotropic models, a linearized steady-state five-layer baroclinic model is used to study the response of a spherical atmosphere to thermal and orographic forcing. At low levels the significant perturbations are confined to the neighborhood of the source and for midlatitude thermal forcing these perturbations are crucially dependent on the vertical distribution of the source. In the upper troposphere the sources generate wavetrains which are very similar to those given by barotropic models. For a low-latitude source, long wavelengths propagate strongly polewards as well as eastwards. Shorter wavelengths are trapped equatorward of the poleward flank of the jet, resulting in a split of the wave-trains at this latitude. Using reasonable dissipation magnitudes, the easiest way to produce an appreciable response in middle and high latitudes is by subtropical forcing. These results suggest an explanation for the shapes of patterns described in observational studies.

The theory for waves propagating in a slowly varying medium is applied to Rossby waves propagating in a barotropic atmosphere. The slow variation of the medium is associated with the sphericity of the domain and the latitudinal structure of the zonal wind. Rays along which wave activity propagates, the speeds of propagation, and the amplitudes and phases along these rays are determined for a constant angular velocity basic flow as well as a more realistic jet flow. They agree well with the observational and numerical model results and give a simple interpretation of them.

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David J. Karoly and Abraham H. Oort

Abstract

Two sets of observed atmospheric circulation statistics for the Southern Hemisphere (SH) are compared. The first set was compiled at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics laboratory (GFDL) and consists of global objective analyses of circulation statistics accumulated at individual rawinsonde stations for the period May 1963–April 1973. The second set was obtained from daily hemispheric numerical analyses prepared operationally at the World Meteorological Centre, Melbourne, Australia for the period September 1972–August 1982. This study extends the earlier comparison of circulation statistics from station-based and from numerical analysis-based methods by Lau and Oort for the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere.

The domain used for the comparison is a 5° × 5° latitude–longitude grid from 10° to 90°S and seven pressure levels from 1000 to 100 mb. The circulation statistics examined include (i) ten-year averages of the monthly mean fields (measures of the mean circulation), (ii) ten-year averages of the standard deviations and covariances of daily values (measures of the daily transient eddy variability) and (iii) year-to-year standard deviations of the monthly mean fields (measures of the interannual variability). The statistics are presented using horizontal maps on pressure surfaces and latitude–pressure sections of zonal averages.

The two sets of circulation statistics were derived using very different analysis methods and they apply for different time periods. The similarities and differences between the statistics from the two datasets indicate the reliability of the statistics and can be used to define a better composite set of circulation statistics for the SH.

The relatively large differences in the statistics can generally be attributed to the sparse conventional observation network in the SH, particularly over the large ocean regions, and deficiencies in the analysis methods. The two sets agree reasonably well from 850 to 500 mb over the land masses, where the observation network is less sparse. In the upper troposphere, the magnitudes of the daily transient eddy statistics from the Australian dataset are smaller due to the analysis method and the inclusion of satellite data. Over the data-sparse regions, the use of the zonal average as the first guess for the GFDL dataset has led to reduced spatial variability, smoother fields and underestimation of extreme values.

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Ailie J. E. Gallant and David J. Karoly

Abstract

Changes in the area of Australia experiencing concurrent temperature and rainfall extremes are investigated through the use of two combined indices. The indices describe variations between the fraction of land area experiencing extreme cold and dry or hot and wet conditions. There is a high level of agreement between the variations and trends of the indices from 1957 to 2008 when computed using (i) a spatially complete gridded dataset without rigorous quality control checks and (ii) spatially incomplete high-quality station datasets with rigorous quality control checks. Australian extremes are examined starting from 1911, which is the first time a broad-scale assessment of Australian temperature extremes has been performed prior to 1957. Over the whole country, the results show an increase in the extent of hot and wet extremes and a decrease in the extent of cold and dry extremes annually and during all seasons from 1911 to 2008 at a rate of between 1% and 2% decade−1. These trends mostly stem from changes in tropical regions during summer and spring. There are relationships between the extent of extreme maximum temperatures, precipitation, and soil moisture on interannual and decadal time scales that are similar to the relationships exhibited by variations of the means. However, the trends from 1911 to 2008 and from 1957 to 2008 are not consistent with these relationships, providing evidence that the processes causing the interannual variations and those causing the longer-term trends are different.

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Melissa S. Bukovsky and David J. Karoly

Abstract

This note examines the sensitivity of simulated U.S. warm-season precipitation in the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF), used as a nested regional climate model, to variations in model setup. Numerous options have been tested and a few of the more interesting and unexpected sensitivities are documented here. Specifically, the impacts of changes in convective and land surface parameterizations, nest feedbacks, sea surface temperature, and WRF version on mean precipitation are evaluated in 4-month-long simulations. Running the model over an entire season has brought to light some issues that are not otherwise apparent in shorter, weather forecast–type simulations, emphasizing the need for careful scrutiny of output from any model simulation. After substantial testing, a reasonable model setup was found that produced a definite improvement in the climatological characteristics of precipitation over that from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research global reanalysis, the dataset used for WRF initial and boundary conditions in this analysis.

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John T. Allen, David J. Karoly, and Kevin J. Walsh

Abstract

The influence of a warming climate on the occurrence of severe thunderstorm environments in Australia was explored using two global climate models: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Mark, version 3.6 (CSIRO Mk3.6), and the Cubic-Conformal Atmospheric Model (CCAM). These models have previously been evaluated and found to be capable of reproducing a useful climatology for the twentieth-century period (1980–2000). Analyzing the changes between the historical period and high warming climate scenarios for the period 2079–99 has allowed estimation of the potential convective future for the continent. Based on these simulations, significant increases to the frequency of severe thunderstorm environments will likely occur for northern and eastern Australia in a warmed climate. This change is a response to increasing convective available potential energy from higher continental moisture, particularly in proximity to warm sea surface temperatures. Despite decreases to the frequency of environments with high vertical wind shear, it appears unlikely that this will offset increases to thermodynamic energy. The change is most pronounced during the peak of the convective season, increasing its length and the frequency of severe thunderstorm environments therein, particularly over the eastern parts of the continent. The implications of this potential increase are significant, with the overall frequency of potential severe thunderstorm days per year likely to rise over the major population centers of the east coast by 14% for Brisbane, 22% for Melbourne, and 30% for Sydney. The limitations of this approach are then discussed in the context of ways to increase the confidence of predictions of future severe convection.

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Wenju Cai, Peter H. Whetton, and David J. Karoly

Abstract

Recent results from greenhouse warming experiments, most of which follow the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) IS92a scenario, have shown that under increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration, the Antarctic Oscillation (AAO) exhibits a positive trend. However, its response during the subsequent CO2 stabilization period has not been explored. In this study, it is shown that the upward trend of the AAO reverses during such a stabilization period. This evolution of an upward trend and a subsequent reversal is present in each ensemble of three greenhouse simulations using three versions of the CSIRO Mark 2 coupled climate model. The evolution is shown to be linked with that of surface temperature, which also displays a corresponding trend and reversal, incorporating the well-known feature of interhemispheric warming asymmetry with smaller warming in the Southern Hemisphere (smaller as latitude increases) than that in the Northern Hemisphere during the transient period, and vice versa during the stabilization period. These results indicate that once CO2 concentration stabilizes, reversal of the AAO trend established during the transient period is likely to be a robust feature, as it is underpinned by the likelihood that latitudinal warming differences will reduce or disappear. The implication is that climatic impacts associated with the AAO trend during the transient period may be reversible if CO2 stabilization is achieved.

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Ailie J. E. Gallant, David J. Karoly, and Karin L. Gleason

Abstract

The utility of a combined modified climate extremes index (mCEI) is presented for monitoring coherent trends in multiple types of climate extremes across large regions. Its usefulness lies in its ability to distill complex spatiotemporal fields into a simple, flexible nonparametric index.

Two versions of the mCEI are computed that incorporate changes in several annual- or daily-scale temperature-related and moisture-related extremes. Applying data from the contiguous United States, Europe, and Australia detects consistent and statistically significant increases in the spatial prevalence of climate extremes from 1950 to 2012. All three continental-scale regions show increasingly widespread warm annual- and daily-scale minimum and maximum temperature extremes, a decreasing spatial extent of cool annual- and daily-scale minimum and maximum temperature extremes, and increasing areas where the proportion of annual total precipitation falls on heavy-rain days. There were no statistically significant trends toward more widespread, annual-scale drought or moisture surplus in any region.

The dependence of annual extremes on the frequency of daily-scale extremes is highlighted by the strong covariations between annual- and daily-scale extremes in all regions. By the nature of construction of the combined indices, the differences in the trends of the mCEI and daily-scale mCEI (dmCEI) suggest that extremes in more areas are changing primarily because of a shift of temperature and daily rainfall distributions toward warm extremes and heavy-rainfall extremes.

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Mitchell T. Black, David J. Karoly, and Andrew D. King
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John T. Allen, David J. Karoly, and Kevin J. Walsh

Abstract

The influence of a warming climate on the occurrence of severe thunderstorms over Australia is, as yet, poorly understood. Based on methods used in the development of a climatology of observed severe thunderstorm environments over the continent, two climate models [Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Mark, version 3.6 (CSIRO Mk3.6) and the Cubic-Conformal Atmospheric Model (CCAM)] have been used to produce simulated climatologies of ingredients and environments favorable to severe thunderstorms for the late twentieth century (1980–2000). A novel evaluation of these model climatologies against data from both the ECMWF Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) and reports of severe thunderstorms from observers is used to analyze the capability of the models to represent convective environments in the current climate. This evaluation examines the representation of thunderstorm-favorable environments in terms of their frequency, seasonal cycle, and spatial distribution, while presenting a framework for future evaluations of climate model convective parameters. Both models showed the capability to explain at least 75% of the spatial variance in both vertical wind shear and convective available potential energy (CAPE). CSIRO Mk3.6 struggled to either represent the diurnal cycle over a large portion of the continent or resolve the annual cycle, while in contrast CCAM showed a tendency to underestimate CAPE and 0–6-km bulk magnitude vertical wind shear (S06). While spatial resolution likely contributes to rendering of features such as coastal moisture and significant topography, the distribution of severe thunderstorm environments is found to have greater sensitivity to model biases. This highlights the need for a consistent approach to evaluating convective parameters and severe thunderstorm environments in present-day climate: an example of which is presented here.

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