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Kevin Hamilton

Abstract

The length of the westerly phase of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) of zonal wind in the equatorial stratosphere is examined using the longest available record (1950–2001). An earlier finding by Salby and Callagan of a systematic quasi-decadal modulation of the QBO period is confirmed, although the earlier suggestion of a strong connection with the solar cycle is less clear in the extended record.

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Kevin Hamilton

Abstract

Surface meteorological data at several stations over the period 1875–1936 are examined in relation to solar activity. In particular an attempt is made to we if these historical data can be reconciled with the sun-QBO-weather relationship recently found in modern (post-1950) data by van Loon and Labitzke (vLL). The basic problem in extending vLL's analysis to earlier periods is ignorance of the phase of the QBO. In the present study, vLL's computations are repeated for the historical data using several million possible sequences for the phase of the QBO. The results reveal problems in reproducing vLL's results in the earlier data. This indicates either that the QBO behaved differently in the past, or that vLL's results for a solar-weather relationship are not stable over the long term.

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Axel Lauer and Kevin Hamilton

Abstract

Clouds are a key component of the climate system affecting radiative balances and the hydrological cycle. Previous studies from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3) showed quite large biases in the simulated cloud climatology affecting all GCMs as well as a remarkable degree of variation among the models that represented the state of the art circa 2005. Here the progress that has been made in recent years is measured by comparing mean cloud properties, interannual variability, and the climatological seasonal cycle from the CMIP5 models with satellite observations and with results from comparable CMIP3 experiments. The focus is on three climate-relevant cloud parameters: cloud amount, liquid water path, and cloud radiative forcing. The comparison shows that intermodel differences are still large in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) simulations, and reveals some small improvements of particular cloud properties in some regions in the CMIP5 ensemble over CMIP3. In CMIP5 there is an improved agreement of the modeled interannual variability of liquid water path and of the modeled longwave cloud forcing over mid- and high-latitude oceans with observations. However, the differences in the simulated cloud climatology from CMIP3 and CMIP5 are generally small, and there is very little to no improvement apparent in the tropical and subtropical regions in CMIP5.

Comparisons of the results from the coupled CMIP5 models with their atmosphere-only versions run with observed SSTs show remarkably similar biases in the simulated cloud climatologies. This suggests the treatments of subgrid-scale cloud and boundary layer processes are directly implicated in the poor performance of current GCMs in simulating realistic cloud fields.

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Markus Stowasser and Kevin Hamilton

Abstract

The relations between local monthly mean shortwave cloud radiative forcing and aspects of the resolved-scale meteorological fields are investigated in hindcast simulations performed with 12 of the global coupled models included in the model intercomparison conducted as part of the preparation for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). In particular, the connection of the cloud forcing over tropical and subtropical ocean areas with resolved midtropospheric vertical velocity and with lower-level relative humidity are investigated and compared among the models. The model results are also compared with observational determinations of the same relationships using satellite data for the cloud forcing and global reanalysis products for the vertical velocity and humidity fields. In the analysis the geographical variability in the long-term mean among all grid points and the interannual variability of the monthly mean at each grid point are considered separately. The shortwave cloud radiative feedback (SWCRF) plays a crucial role in determining the predicted response to large-scale climate forcing (such as from increased greenhouse gas concentrations), and it is thus important to test how the cloud representations in current climate models respond to unforced variability.

Overall there is considerable variation among the results for the various models, and all models show some substantial differences from the comparable observed results. The most notable deficiency is a weak representation of the cloud radiative response to variations in vertical velocity in cases of strong ascending or strong descending motions. While the models generally perform better in regimes with only modest upward or downward motions, even in these regimes there is considerable variation among the models in the dependence of SWCRF on vertical velocity. The largest differences between models and observations when SWCRF values are stratified by relative humidity are found in either very moist or very dry regimes. Thus, the largest errors in the model simulations of cloud forcing are prone to be in the western Pacific warm pool area, which is characterized by very moist strong upward currents, and in the rather dry regions where the flow is dominated by descending mean motions.

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Markus Stowasser, Kevin Hamilton, and George J. Boer

Abstract

The climatic response to a 5% increase in solar constant is analyzed in three coupled global ocean–atmosphere general circulation models, the NCAR Climate System Model version 1 (CSM1), the Community Climate System Model version 2 (CCSM2), and the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis (CCCma) Coupled General Circulation Model version 3 (CGCM3). For this simple perturbation the quantitative values of the radiative climate forcing at the top of the atmosphere can be determined very accurately simply from a knowledge of the shortwave fluxes in the control run. The climate sensitivity and the geographical pattern of climate feedbacks, and of the shortwave, longwave, clear-sky, and cloud components in each model, are diagnosed as the climate evolves. After a period of adjustment of a few years, both the magnitude and pattern of the feedbacks become reasonably stable with time, implying that they may be accurately determined from relatively short integrations.

The global-mean forcing at the top of the atmosphere due to the solar constant change is almost identical in the three models. The exact value of the forcing in each case is compared with that inferred by regressing annual-mean top-of-the-atmosphere radiative imbalance against mean surface temperature change. This regression approach yields a value close to the directly diagnosed forcing for the CCCma model, but a value only within about 25% of the directly diagnosed forcing for the two NCAR models. These results indicate that this regression approach may have some practical limitation in its application, at least for some models.

The global climate sensitivities differ among the models by almost a factor of 2, and, despite an overall apparent similarity, the spatial patterns of the climate feedbacks are only modestly correlated among the three models. An exception is the clear-sky shortwave feedback, which agrees well in both magnitude and spatial pattern among the models. The biggest discrepancies are in the shortwave cloud feedback, particularly in the tropical and subtropical regions where it is strongly negative in the NCAR models but weakly positive in the CCCma model. Almost all of the difference in the global-mean total feedback (and climate sensitivity) among the models is attributable to the shortwave cloud feedback component.

All three models exhibit a region of positive feedback in the equatorial Pacific, which is surrounded by broad areas of negative feedback. These positive feedback regions appear to be associated with a local maximum of the surface warming. However, the models differ in the zonal structure of this surface warming, which ranges from a mean El Niño–like warming in the eastern Pacific in the CCCma model to a far-western Pacific maximum of warming in the NCAR CCSM2 model. A separate simulation with the CCSM2 model, in which these tropical Pacific zonal gradients of surface warming are artificially suppressed, shows no region of positive radiative feedback in the tropical Pacific. However, the global-mean feedback is only modestly changed in this constrained run, suggesting that the processes that produce the positive feedback in the tropical Pacific region may not contribute importantly to global-mean feedback and climate sensitivity.

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Jinhua Yu, Yuqing Wang, and Kevin Hamilton

Abstract

This paper reports on an analysis of the tropical cyclone (TC) potential intensity (PI) and its control parameters in transient global warming simulations. Specifically, the TC PI is calculated for phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3) integrations during the first 70 yr of a transient run forced by a 1% yr−1 CO2 increase. The linear trend over the period is used to project a 70-yr change in relevant model parameters. The results for a 15-model ensemble-mean climate projection show that the thermodynamic potential intensity (THPI) increases on average by 1.0% to ∼3.1% over various TC basins, which is mainly attributed to changes in the disequilibrium in enthalpy between the ocean and atmosphere in the transient response to increasing CO2 concentrations. This modest projected increase in THPI is consistent with that found in other recent studies.

In this paper the effects of evolving large-scale dynamical factors on the projected TC PI are also quantified, using an empirical formation that takes into account the effects of vertical shear and translational speed based on a statistical analysis of present-day observations. Including the dynamical efficiency in the formulation of PI leads to larger projected changes in PI relative to that obtained using just THPI in some basins and smaller projected changes in others. The inclusion of the dynamical efficiency has the largest relative effect in the main development region (MDR) of the North Atlantic, where it leads to a 50% reduction in the projected PI change. Results are also presented for the basin-averaged changes in PI for the climate projections from each of the 15 individual models. There is considerable variation among the results for individual model projections, and for some models the projected increase in PI in the eastern Pacific and south Indian Ocean regions exceeds 10%.

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Markus Stowasser, Yuqing Wang, and Kevin Hamilton

Abstract

The influence of global warming on the climatology of tropical cyclones in the western North Pacific basin is examined using the high-resolution International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) regional climate model forced by ocean temperatures and horizontal boundary fields taken from the NCAR Community Climate System Model version 2 (CCSM2) coupled global climate model. The regional model is first tested in 10 yr of simulation with boundary forcing taken from observations and is shown to produce a reasonably good representation of the observed statistics of tropical cyclone numbers and locations. The model was then run for 10 yr with forcing from a present-day control run of the CCSM2 and then for 10 yr with forcing fields taken from the end of a long run with 6 times the present-day atmospheric CO2 concentration. The global-mean surface air temperature warming in the perturbed run is 4.5 K, while the surface warming in the tropical western North Pacific is about 3 K. The results of these experiments reveal no statistically significant change in basinwide tropical cyclone numbers in the peak season from July to October in response to the CO2 increase. However, a pronounced and statistically significant increase in tropical cyclone occurrence in the South China Sea is found. While the basinwide total number of storms remains nearly unchanged in the warm climate, there is a statistically significant increase in the average strength of the cyclones and in the number of the storms in the strongest wind categories.

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Axel Lauer, Ralf Bennartz, Kevin Hamilton, and Yuqing Wang

Abstract

An important parameter often adjusted to achieve agreement between simulated and observed radiative fluxes in climate models is the rain formation efficiency. This adjustment has been justified as accounting for the effects of subgrid-scale variability in cloud properties, but this tuning approach is rather arbitrary. This study examines results from a regional climate model with precipitation formation schemes that have been conventionally tuned, and it compares them with simulations employing a recently developed scheme that uses satellite observations to explicitly account for the subgrid-scale variability of clouds (“integral constraint method”). Simulations with the International Pacific Research Center’s Regional Atmospheric Model (iRAM) show that the integral constraint method is capable of simulating cloud fields over the eastern Pacific that are in good agreement with observations, without requiring model tuning. A series of global warming simulations for late twenty-first-century conditions is performed to investigate the impact of the treatment of the precipitation formation efficiency on modeled cloud–climate feedbacks. The results with the integral constraint method show that the simulated cloud feedbacks have similar patterns at all the model resolutions considered (grid spacings of 50, 100, and 200 km), but there are some quantitative differences (with smaller feedbacks at finer resolution). The cloud responses to global warming in simulations with a conventionally tuned autoconversion scheme and with the integral constraint method were found to be quite consistent, although differences in individual regions of ~10%–30% are evident. No conclusions can be drawn from this study on the validity of model tuning for thick clouds and mixed phase or ice clouds, however.

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Chunxi Zhang, Yuqing Wang, Kevin Hamilton, and Axel Lauer

Abstract

Hawaii’s high and steep topography leads to pronounced small-scale variations in climate, and this makes comprehensive modeling of the weather and climate particularly challenging. This paper describes a regional model formulation designed for simulations of the microclimates in Hawaii and then documents and analyzes an extended retrospective simulation for near-present-day conditions. Part II will apply the model to projected climate conditions near the end of the present century.

A nested version of the Advanced Research version of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model with fine horizontal resolution and improved physics for the Hawaiian region has been configured. A 20-yr triply nested simulation of the atmospheric flow was undertaken with a 3-km-resolution mesh covering all main Hawaiian Islands and a 1-km mesh over Maui. Ocean surface temperatures are prescribed from observations, and meteorological fields at the boundaries of the outermost domain are taken from global reanalyses. The simulations are compared to surface, balloon, and satellite observations over the same period. The 3-km version of the model realistically simulates the frequency of trade wind inversions, time-mean rainfall, and other variables on relatively small scales over the island of Hawaii. There is a reasonable agreement between observed and simulated mean rainfall patterns over the other islands as well. However, the simulated distribution of mean rainfall over Kauai and (most particularly) Maui and Oahu reveals some significant deficiencies, which is attributed to inadequate resolution of the topography on these islands. The 1-km simulation over Maui shows clear improvement in the mean rainfall over the 3-km version.

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Chunxi Zhang, Yuqing Wang, Kevin Hamilton, and Axel Lauer

Abstract

A 20-yr simulation with a fine-resolution regional atmospheric model for projected late twenty-first-century conditions in Hawaii is presented. The pseudo-global-warming method is employed, and the boundary conditions are based on a multimodel mean of projections made with global coupled models run with a moderate greenhouse gas emissions scenario. Results show that surface air temperature over land increases ~2°–4°C with the greatest warming at the highest topographic heights. A modest tendency for the warming to be larger on the leeward sides of the major islands is also apparent. Climatological rainfall is projected to change up to ~25% at many locations. The currently wet windward sides of the major islands will have more clouds and receive more rainfall, while the currently dry leeward sides will generally have even less clouds and rainfall. The average trade wind inversion–base height and the mean marine boundary layer cloud heights are projected to exhibit only small changes. However, the frequency of days with clearly defined trade wind inversions is predicted to increase substantially (~83% to ~91%). The extreme rainfall events are projected to increase significantly. An analysis of the model’s moisture budget in the lower troposphere shows that the increased mean rainfall on the windward sides of the islands is largely attributable to increased boundary layer moisture in the warmer climate. Rainfall changes attributable to mean low-level circulation changes are modest in comparison.

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