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Christoph Schär and Nico Kröner


Models are attractive tools to deepen the understanding of atmospheric and climate processes. In practice, such investigations often involve numerical experiments that switch on or off individual factors (such as latent heating, nonlinear coupling, or some climate forcing). However, as in general many factors can be considered, the analysis of these experiments is far from straightforward. In particular, as pointed out in an influential study on factor separation by Stein and Alpert, the analysis will often require the consideration of nonlinear interaction terms.

In the current paper an alternative factor separation methodology is proposed and analyzed. Unlike the classical method, sequential factor separation (SFS) does not involve the derivation of the interaction terms but, rather, provides some uncertainty measure that addresses the quality of the separation. The main advantage of the proposed methodology is that in the case of n factors it merely requires 2n simulations (rather than 2n for the classical analysis). The paper provides an outline of the methodology, a detailed mathematical analysis, and a theoretical intercomparison against the classical methodology. In addition, an example and an intercomparison using regional climate model experiments with n = 3 factors are presented. The results relate to the Mediterranean amplification and demonstrate that—at least in the particular example considered—the two methodologies yield almost identical results and that the SFS is rather insensitive with respect to design choices.

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Roman Brogli, Nico Kröner, Silje Lund Sørland, Daniel Lüthi, and Christoph Schär


By the end of the century, climate projections for southern Europe exhibit an enhanced near-surface summer warming in response to greenhouse gas emissions, which is known as the Mediterranean amplification. Possible causes for this amplified warming signal include a poleward Hadley cell expansion as well as tropospheric lapse-rate changes. In this work, regional climate model (RCM) simulations driven by three different global climate models (GCMs) are performed, representing the RCP8.5 emission scenario. For every downscaled GCM, the climate change signal over Europe is separated into five contributions by modifying the lateral boundary conditions of the RCM. This simulation strategy is related to the pseudo–global warming method. The results show that a poleward expansion of the Hadley cell is of minor importance for the Mediterranean amplification. During summer, the simulated Hadley circulation is weak, and projections show no distinct expansion in the European sector. The north–south contrast in lapse-rate changes is suggested as the most important factor causing the Mediterranean amplification. Lapse-rate changes are projected throughout Europe, but are weaker over the Mediterranean than over northern Europe (around 0.15 vs 0.3 K km−1 by the end of the century). The weaker lapse-rate changes result in a strong near-surface summer warming over the Mediterranean, since the upper-tropospheric warming is of similar magnitude throughout Europe. The differing lapse-rate changes can be understood as a thermodynamic response to lower-tropospheric humidity contrasts.

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