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Aaron Donohoe
and
David S. Battisti

Abstract

The “background” state is commonly removed from synoptic fields by use of either a spatial or temporal filter prior to the application of feature tracking. Commonly used spatial and temporal filters applied to sea level pressure data admit substantially different information to be included in the synoptic fields. The spatial filter retains a time-mean field that has comparable magnitude to a typical synoptic perturbation. In contrast, the temporal filter removes the entire time-mean field. The inclusion of the time-mean spatially filtered field biases the feature tracking statistics toward large cyclone (anticyclone) magnitudes in the regions of climatological lows (highs). The resulting cyclone/anticyclone magnitude asymmetries in each region are found to be inconsistent with the unfiltered data fields and merely result from the spurious inclusion of the time-mean fields in the spatially filtered data. The temporally filtered fields do not suffer from the same problem and produce modest cyclone/anticyclone magnitude asymmetries that are consistent with the unfiltered data. This analysis suggests that the weather forecaster’s assertion that cyclones have larger amplitudes than anticyclones is due to a composite of a small magnitude asymmetry in the synoptic waves and a large contribution from inhomogeneity in the background (stationary) field.

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Aaron Donohoe
and
David S. Battisti

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to determine how an atmosphere with enhanced mean-state baroclinity can support weaker baroclinic wave activity than an atmosphere with weak mean-state baroclinity. As a case study, a Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) model simulation previously documented to have reduced baroclinic storm activity, relative to the modern-day climate (simulated by the same model), despite having an enhanced midlatitude temperature gradient, is considered. Several candidate mechanisms are evaluated to explain this apparent paradox.

A linear stability analysis is first performed on the jet in the modern-day and the LGM simulation; the latter has relatively strong barotropic velocity shear. It was found that the LGM mean state is more unstable to baroclinic disturbances than the modern-day mean state, although the three-dimensional jet structure does stabilize the LGM jet relative to the Eady growth rate. Next, feature tracking was used to assess the storm track seeding and temporal growth of disturbances. It was found that the reduction in LGM eddy activity, relative to the modern-day eddy activity, is due to the smaller magnitude of the upper-level storms entering the North Atlantic domain in the LGM. Although the LGM storms do grow more rapidly in the North Atlantic than their modern-day counterparts, the storminess in the LGM is reduced because storms seeding the region of enhanced baroclinity are weaker.

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Aaron Donohoe
and
David S. Battisti

Abstract

The planetary albedo is partitioned into a component due to atmospheric reflection and a component due to surface reflection by using shortwave fluxes at the surface and top of the atmosphere in conjunction with a simple radiation model. The vast majority of the observed global average planetary albedo (88%) is due to atmospheric reflection. Surface reflection makes a relatively small contribution to planetary albedo because the atmosphere attenuates the surface contribution to planetary albedo by a factor of approximately 3. The global average planetary albedo in the ensemble average of phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3) preindustrial simulations is also primarily (87%) due to atmospheric albedo. The intermodel spread in planetary albedo is relatively large and is found to be predominantly a consequence of intermodel differences in atmospheric albedo, with surface processes playing a much smaller role despite significant intermodel differences in surface albedo. The CMIP3 models show a decrease in planetary albedo under a doubling of carbon dioxide—also primarily due to changes in atmospheric reflection (which explains more than 90% of the intermodel spread). All models show a decrease in planetary albedo due to the lowered surface albedo associated with a contraction of the cryosphere in a warmer world, but this effect is small compared to the spread in planetary albedo due to model differences in the change in clouds.

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Aaron Donohoe
and
David S. Battisti

Abstract

The annual mean maximum meridional heat transport (MHTMAX) differs by approximately 20% among coupled climate models. The value of MHTMAX can be expressed as the difference between the equator-to-pole contrast in absorbed solar radiation (ASR*) and outgoing longwave radiation (OLR*). As an example, in the Northern Hemisphere observations, the extratropics (defined as the region with a net radiative deficit) receive an 8.2-PW deficit of net solar radiation (ASR*) relative to the global average that is balanced by a 2.4-PW deficit of outgoing longwave radiation (OLR*) and 5.8 PW of energy import via the atmospheric and oceanic circulation (MHTMAX). The intermodel spread of MHTMAX in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 3 (CMIP3) simulations of the preindustrial climate is primarily (R 2 = 0.72) due to differences in ASR* while model differences in OLR* are uncorrelated with the MHTMAX spread. The net solar radiation (ASR*) is partitioned into contributions from (i) the equator-to-pole contrast in incident radiation acting on the global average albedo and (ii) the equator-to-pole contrast of planetary albedo, which is further subdivided into components due to atmospheric and surface reflection. In the observations, 62% of ASR* is due to the meridional distribution of incident radiation, 33% is due to atmospheric reflection, and 5% is due to surface reflection. The intermodel spread in ASR* is due to model differences in the equator-to-pole gradient in planetary albedo, which are primarily a consequence of atmospheric reflection differences (92% of the spread), and is uncorrelated with differences in surface reflection. As a consequence, the spread in MHTMAX in climate models is primarily due to the spread in cloud reflection properties.

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Aaron Donohoe
and
David S. Battisti

Abstract

The seasonal cycle of the heating of the atmosphere is divided into a component due to direct solar absorption in the atmosphere and a component due to the flux of energy from the surface to the atmosphere via latent, sensible, and radiative heat fluxes. Both observations and coupled climate models are analyzed. The vast majority of the seasonal heating of the northern extratropics (78% in the observations and 67% in the model average) is due to atmospheric shortwave absorption. In the southern extratropics, the seasonal heating of the atmosphere is entirely due to atmospheric shortwave absorption in both the observations and the models, and the surface heat flux opposes the seasonal heating of the atmosphere. The seasonal cycle of atmospheric temperature is surface amplified in the northern extratropics and nearly barotropic in the Southern Hemisphere; in both cases, the vertical profile of temperature reflects the source of the seasonal heating.

In the northern extratropics, the seasonal cycle of atmospheric heating over land differs markedly from that over the ocean. Over the land, the surface energy fluxes complement the driving absorbed shortwave flux; over the ocean, they oppose the absorbed shortwave flux. This gives rise to large seasonal differences in the temperature of the atmosphere over land and ocean. Downgradient temperature advection by the mean westerly winds damps the seasonal cycle of heating of the atmosphere over the land and amplifies it over the ocean. The seasonal cycle in the zonal energy transport is 4.1 PW.

Finally, the authors examine the change in the seasonal cycle of atmospheric heating in 11 models from phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3) due to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide from preindustrial concentrations. The seasonal heating of the troposphere is everywhere enhanced by increased shortwave absorption by water vapor; it is reduced where sea ice has been replaced by ocean, which increases the effective heat storage reservoir of the climate system and thereby reduces the seasonal magnitude of energy fluxes between the surface and the atmosphere. As a result, the seasonal amplitude of temperature increases in the upper troposphere (where atmospheric shortwave absorption increases) and decreases at the surface (where the ice melts).

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Tiffany A. Shaw
,
Pragallva Barpanda
, and
Aaron Donohoe

Abstract

A moist static energy (MSE) framework for zonal-mean storm-track intensity, defined as the extremum of zonal-mean transient eddy MSE flux, is derived and applied across a range of time scales. According to the framework, storm-track intensity can be decomposed into contributions from net energy input [sum of shortwave absorption and surface heat fluxes into the atmosphere minus outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) and atmospheric storage] integrated poleward of the storm-track position and MSE flux by the mean meridional circulation or stationary eddies at the storm-track position. The framework predicts storm-track decay in spring and amplification in fall in response to seasonal insolation. When applied diagnostically the framework shows shortwave absorption and land turbulent surface heat fluxes account for the seasonal evolution of Northern Hemisphere (NH) intensity; however, they are partially compensated by OLR (Planck feedback) and stationary eddy MSE flux. The negligible amplitude of Southern Hemisphere (SH) seasonal intensity is consistent with the compensation of shortwave absorption by OLR and oceanic turbulent surface heat fluxes (ocean energy storage). On interannual time scales, El Niño minus La Niña conditions amplify the NH storm track, consistent with decreased subtropical stationary eddy MSE flux. Finally, on centennial time scales, the CO2 indirect effect (sea surface temperature warming) amplifies the NH summertime storm track whereas the direct effect (increased CO2 over land) weakens it, consistent with opposing turbulent surface heat flux responses over land and ocean.

Open access
Aaron Donohoe
,
John Marshall
,
David Ferreira
, and
David Mcgee

Abstract

The authors quantify the relationship between the location of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) and the atmospheric heat transport across the equator (AHTEQ) in climate models and in observations. The observed zonal mean ITCZ location varies from 5.3°S in the boreal winter to 7.2°N in the boreal summer with an annual mean position of 1.65°N while the AHTEQ varies from 2.1 PW northward in the boreal winter to 2.3 PW southward in the boreal summer with an annual mean of 0.1 PW southward. Seasonal variations in the ITCZ location and AHTEQ are highly anticorrelated in the observations and in a suite of state-of-the-art coupled climate models with regression coefficients of −2.7° and −2.4° PW−1 respectively. It is also found that seasonal variations in ITCZ location and AHTEQ are well correlated in a suite of slab ocean aquaplanet simulations with varying ocean mixed layer depths. However, the regression coefficient between ITCZ location and AHTEQ decreases with decreasing mixed layer depth as a consequence of the asymmetry that develops between the winter and summer Hadley cells as the ITCZ moves farther off the equator.

The authors go on to analyze the annual mean change in ITCZ location and AHTEQ in an ensemble of climate perturbation experiments including the response to CO2 doubling, simulations of the Last Glacial Maximum, and simulations of the mid-Holocene. The shift in the annual average ITCZ location is also strongly anticorrelated with the change in annual mean AHTEQ with a regression coefficient of −3.2° PW−1, similar to that found over the seasonal cycle.

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Xiaojuan Liu
,
David S. Battisti
, and
Aaron Donohoe

Abstract

Summertime insolation intensified in the Northern Hemisphere during the mid-Holocene, resulting in enhanced monsoonal precipitation. In this study, the authors examine the changes in the annual-mean tropical precipitation as well as changes in atmospheric circulation and upper-ocean circulation in the mid-Holocene compared to the preindustrial climate, as simulated by 12 coupled climate models from PMIP3. In addition to the predominant zonally asymmetric changes in tropical precipitation, there is a small northward shift in the location of intense zonal-mean precipitation (mean ITCZ) in the mid-Holocene in the majority (9 out of 12) of the coupled climate models. In contrast, the shift is southward in simulations using an atmospheric model coupled to a slab ocean. The northward mean ITCZ shift in the coupled simulations is due to enhanced northward ocean heat transport across the equator [OHT(EQ)], which demands a compensating southward atmospheric energy transport across the equator, accomplished by shifting the Hadley cell and hence the mean ITCZ northward. The increased northward OHT(EQ) is primarily accomplished by changes in the upper-ocean gyre circulation in the tropical Pacific acting on the zonally asymmetric climatological temperature distribution. The gyre intensification results from the intensification of the monsoonal winds in the Northern Hemisphere and the weakening of the winds in the Southern Hemisphere, both of which are forced directly by the insolation changes.

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Nicholas Siler
,
David B. Bonan
, and
Aaron Donohoe

Abstract

Global warming is expected to cause significant changes in the pattern of precipitation minus evaporation (PE), which represents the net flux of water from the atmosphere to the surface or, equivalently, the convergence of moisture transport within the atmosphere. In most global climate model simulations, the pattern of PE change resembles an amplification of the historical pattern—a tendency known as “wet gets wetter, dry gets drier.” However, models also predict significant departures from this approximation that are not well understood. Here, we introduce a new method of decomposing the pattern of PE change into contributions from various dynamic and thermodynamic mechanisms and use it to investigate the response of PE to global warming within the CESM1 Large Ensemble. In contrast to previous decompositions of PE change, ours incorporates changes not only in the monthly means of atmospheric winds and moisture, but also in their temporal variability, allowing us to isolate the hydrologic impacts of changes in the mean circulation, transient eddies, relative humidity, and the spatial and temporal distributions of temperature. In general, we find that changes in the mean circulation primarily control the PE response in the tropics, while temperature changes dominate at higher latitudes. Although the relative importance of specific mechanisms varies by region, at the global scale departures from the wet-gets-wetter approximation over land are primarily due to changes in the temperature lapse rate, while changes in the mean circulation, relative humidity, and horizontal temperature gradients play a secondary role.

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Aaron Donohoe
,
John Marshall
,
David Ferreira
,
Kyle Armour
, and
David McGee

Abstract

The interannual variability of the location of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) is strongly (R = 0.75) correlated with the atmospheric heat transport across the equator (AHTEQ) over the satellite era (1979–2009). A 1° northward displacement of the ITCZ is associated with 0.34 PW of anomalous AHTEQ from north to south. The AHTEQ and precipitation anomalies are both associated with an intensification of the climatological Hadley cell that is displaced north of the equator. This relationship suggests that the tropical precipitation variability is driven by a hemispheric asymmetry of energy input to the atmosphere at all latitudes by way of the constraint that AHTEQ is balanced by a hemispheric asymmetry in energy input to the atmosphere.

A 500-yr coupled model simulation also features strong interannual correlations between the ITCZ location and AHTEQ. The interannual variability of AHTEQ in the model is associated with a hemispheric asymmetry in the top of the atmosphere radiative anomalies in the tropics with the Northern Hemisphere gaining energy when the ITCZ is displaced northward. The surface heat fluxes make a secondary contribution to the interannual variability of AHTEQ despite the fact that the interannual variability of the ocean heat transport across the equator (OHTEQ) is comparable in magnitude to that in AHTEQ. The OHTEQ makes a minimal impact on the atmospheric energy budget because the vast majority of the interannual variability in OHTEQ is stored in the subsurface ocean and, thus, the interannual variability of OHTEQ does not strongly impact the atmospheric circulation.

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