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Samar Minallah and Allison L. Steiner

Abstract

This study evaluates the historical climatology and future changes of the atmospheric water cycle for the Laurentian Great Lakes region using 15 models from phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6). While the models have unique seasonal characteristics in the historical (1981–2010) simulations, common patterns emerge in the midcentury SSP2–4.5 scenario (2041–70), including a prevalent shift in the precipitation seasonal cycle with summer drying and wetter winter and spring months, and a ubiquitous increase in the magnitudes of convective precipitation, evapotranspiration, and moisture inflow into the region. The seasonal cycle of moisture flux convergence is amplified (i.e., the magnitude of winter convergence and summer divergence increases), which is the primary driver of future total precipitation changes. The precipitation recycling ratio is also projected to decline in summer and increase in winter by midcentury, signifying a larger contribution of the regional moisture (via evapotranspiration) to total precipitation in the colder months. Most models (10/15) either do not represent the Great Lakes or have major inconsistencies in how the lakes are simulated both in terms of spatial representation and treatment of lake processes. In models with some lake presence, the contribution of lake grid cells to the regional evapotranspiration magnitude can be more than 50% in winter. In the future, winter months have a larger increase in evaporation over water surfaces than the surrounding land, which corroborates past findings of sensitivity of deep lakes to climate warming and highlights the importance of lake representation in these models for reliable regional hydroclimatic assessments.

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Samar Minallah and Allison L. Steiner

Abstract

Precipitation in the Great Lakes region has a distinct seasonal cycle that peaks in early summer, followed by a decline in August and a secondary peak in September. This seasonality is often not captured by models, which necessitates understanding of the driving mechanisms to ascertain the model biases. This study analyzes the atmospheric moisture budget using reanalysis datasets to assess the role of regional evapotranspiration and moisture influx from remote origins in defining the precipitation seasonality, and to understand how the Great Lakes modulate spatial patterns and magnitudes of these components. Specifically, the land–water thermal contrast yields large seasonal variations in the evaporative fluxes and creates distinctive localized spatial patterns of moisture flux divergence. We find considerable month-to-month variations in both evapotranspiration and the net moisture transport through the boundaries, where they play a cooperative (contrasting) role in amplifying (dampening) the moisture content available for precipitation and total precipitable water. Our seasonal analysis suggests that the misrepresentation of the budget quantities in models, for example, in simulation of moisture transport processes and parameterization schemes, can result in an anomalous precipitation behavior and, in some cases, violation of the atmospheric moisture mass balance, resulting in large residual magnitudes. We also identify conspicuous differences in the representation of moisture budget components in the various reanalyses, which can alter their representation of the regional hydroclimates.

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Samar Minallah and Allison L. Steiner

Abstract

Lakes are an integral part of the geosphere, but they are challenging to represent in Earth system models, which either exclude lakes or prescribe properties without simulating lake dynamics. In the ECMWF interim reanalysis (ERA-Interim), lakes are represented by prescribing lake surface water temperatures (LSWT) from external data sources, while the newer-generation ERA5 introduces the Freshwater Lake (FLake) parameterization scheme to the modeling system with different LSWT assimilation data sources. This study assesses the performance of these two reanalyses over three regions with the largest lakes in the world (Laurentian Great Lakes, African Great Lakes, and Lake Baikal) to understand the effects of their simulation differences on hydrometeorological variables. We find that differences in lake representation alter the associated hydrological and atmospheric processes and can affect regional hydroclimatic assessments. There are prominent differences in LSWT between the two datasets that influence the simulation of lake-effect snowstorms in the Laurentian winters and lake–land-breeze circulation patterns in the African region. Generally, ERA5 has warmer LSWT in all three regions for most months (by 2–12 K) and its evaporation rates are up to twice the magnitudes in ERA-Interim. In the Laurentian lakes, ERA5 has strong biases in LSWT and evaporation magnitudes. Over Lake Baikal and the African Great Lakes, ERA5 LSWT magnitudes are closer to satellite-based datasets, albeit with a warm bias (1–4 K), while ERA-Interim underestimates the magnitudes. ERA5 also simulates intense precipitation hot spots in lake proximity that are not visible in ERA-Interim and other observation-based datasets. Despite these limitations, ERA5 improves the simulation of lake–land circulation patterns across the African Great Lakes.

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Samar Minallah and Allison L. Steiner

Abstract

This study evaluates the historical climatology and future changes of the atmospheric water cycle for the Laurentian Great Lakes region using 15 Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) models. While the models have unique seasonal characteristics in the historical (1981 – 2010) simulations, common patterns emerge by the mid-century SSP2-4.5 scenario (2041 – 2070), including a prevalent shift in the precipitation seasonal cycle with summer drying and wetter winter-spring months, and a ubiquitous increase in the magnitudes of convective precipitation, evapotranspiration, and moisture inflow into the region. The seasonal cycle of moisture flux convergence is amplified (i.e., the magnitude of winter convergence and summer divergence increases), which is the primary driver of future total precipitation changes. Precipitation recycling ratio is also projected to decline in summer and increase in winter by the mid-century, signifying a larger contribution of the regional moisture (via evapotranspiration) to total precipitation in the colder months. Many models (6/15) do not include representation of the Great Lakes, while others (4/15) have major inconsistencies in how the lakes are simulated both in terms of spatial representation and treatment of lake processes. In models with some lake presence, contribution of lake grid cells to the regional evapotranspiration magnitude can be more than 50% in winter. In future, winter months have a larger increase in evaporation over water surfaces than the surrounding land, which corroborates past findings of sensitivity of deep lakes to climate warming and highlights the importance of lake representation in these models for reliable regional hydroclimatic assessments.

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David M. Wright, Derek J. Posselt, and Allison L. Steiner

Abstract

High-resolution Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) simulations are used to explore the sensitivity of Great Lakes lake-effect snowfall (LES) to changes in lake ice cover and surface temperature. A control simulation with observed ice cover is compared with three sensitivity tests: complete ice cover, no lake ice, and warmer lake surface temperatures. The spatial pattern of unfrozen lake surfaces determines the placement of LES, and complete ice cover eliminates it. Removal of ice cover and an increase in lake temperatures result in an expansion of the LES area both along and downwind of the lake shore, as well as an increase in snowfall amount. While lake temperatures and phase determine the amount and spatial coverage of LES, the finescale distribution of LES is strongly affected by the interaction between lake surface fluxes, the large-scale flow, and the local lake shore geography and inland topography. As a consequence, the sensitivity of LES to topography and shore geometry differs for lakes with short versus long overwater fetch. These simulations indicate that coarse-resolution models may be able to realistically reproduce the gross features of LES in future climates, but will miss the important local-scale interactions that determine the location and intensity of LES.

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Stacey Kawecki, Geoffrey M. Henebry, and Allison L. Steiner

Abstract

This study examines the effects of urban aerosols on a mesoscale convective system (MCS) in the central Great Plains with the Weather Research and Forecasting Model coupled with chemistry (WRF-Chem). Urban emissions from Kansas City, Missouri, were scaled by factors of 0.5, 1.0, and 2.0 to investigate the impact of urban aerosol load on MCS propagation and strength. The first half of the storm development is characterized by a stationary front to the north of Kansas City (phase I; 1800 UTC 26 May–0600 UTC 27 May), which develops into a squall line south of the urban area (phase II; 0600–1800 UTC 27 May). During phase I, doubling urban emissions shifts the precipitation accumulation, with enhancement downwind of the storm propagation and suppression upwind. During phase II, a squall line develops in the baseline and doubled emissions scenarios but not when emissions are halved. These changes in MCS propagation and strength are a function of cold pool strength, which is determined by microphysical processes and directly influenced by aerosol load. Overall, changes in urban emissions drive changes in cloud microphysics, which trigger large-scale changes in storm morphology and precipitation patterns. These results show that urban emissions can play an important role in mesoscale weather systems.

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Amanda S. Adams, Allison L. Steiner, and Christine Wiedinmyer

Abstract

Women are a growing percentage of undergraduate and graduate students in the atmospheric sciences, yet they remain a minority in senior positions. One approach for the retention of women is increased mentoring, which is linked to successful promotions, higher incomes, and greater career satisfaction. Informal peer networking is a form of mentoring that may be effective for underrepresented groups. The Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN) was established in 2002 with the mission to promote career development, build community, provide informal mentoring and support, and facilitate professional collaborations for early career women in the Earth sciences. Over time, ESWN has developed a mentoring philosophy that has reduced some barriers and challenges that women face in traditional mentoring relationships. The five main principles of the ESWN’s mentoring philosophy have evolved to include community-driven mentoring, diverse mentoring approaches for diverse individuals, mentoring across career phases, combined personal and professional mentoring, and effective mentoring in a safe space. Surveys of ESWN members report gains in areas that are often considered barriers to career advancement, including recognition that they are not alone, new understanding of obstacles faced by women in science, and access to professional resources. These gains have been accomplished through online and in-person ESWN activities guided by the ESWN’s mentoring philosophy. Understanding the success of the ESWN, as well as its limitations, has the potential to inform the larger atmospheric science community of additional strategies to improve mentoring and retention of women in the atmospheric sciences.

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Peiyun Zhu, Susan J. Cheng, Zachary Butterfield, Gretchen Keppel-Aleks, and Allison L. Steiner

Abstract

Clouds can modify terrestrial productivity by reducing total surface radiation and increasing diffuse radiation, which may be more evenly distributed through plant canopies and increase ecosystem carbon uptake (the “diffuse fertilization effect”). Previous work at ecosystem-level observational towers demonstrated that diffuse photosynthetically active radiation (PAR; 400–700 nm) increases with cloud optical thickness (COT) until a COT of approximately 10, defined here as the “low-COT regime.” To identify whether the low-COT regime also influences carbon uptake on broader spatial and longer temporal time scales, we use global, monthly data to investigate the influence of COT on carbon uptake in three land-cover types: shrublands, forests, and croplands. While there are limitations in global gross primary production (GPP) products, global COT data derived from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) reveal that during the growing season tropical and subtropical regions more frequently experience a monthly low-COT regime (>20% of the time) than other regions of the globe. Contrary to ecosystem-level studies, comparisons of monthly COT with monthly satellite-derived solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence and modeled GPP indicate that, although carbon uptake generally increases with COT under the low-COT regime, the correlations between COT and carbon uptake are insignificant (p > 0.05) in shrublands, forests, and croplands at regional scales. When scaled globally, vegetated regions under the low-COT regime account for only 4.9% of global mean annual GPP, suggesting that clouds and their diffuse fertilization effect become less significant drivers of terrestrial carbon uptake at broader spatial and temporal scales.

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Allison L. Steiner, Dori Mermelstein, Susan J. Cheng, Tracy E. Twine, and Andrew Oliphant

Abstract

Atmospheric aerosols scatter and potentially absorb incoming solar radiation, thereby reducing the total amount of radiation reaching the surface and increasing the fraction that is diffuse. The partitioning of incoming energy at the surface into sensible heat flux and latent heat flux is postulated to change with increasing aerosol concentrations, as an increase in diffuse light can reach greater portions of vegetated canopies. This can increase photosynthesis and transpiration rates in the lower canopy and potentially decrease the ratio of sensible to latent heat for the entire canopy. Here, half-hourly and hourly surface fluxes from six Flux Network (FLUXNET) sites in the coterminous United States are evaluated over the past decade (2000–08) in conjunction with satellite-derived aerosol optical depth (AOD) to determine if atmospheric aerosols systematically influence sensible and latent heat fluxes. Satellite-derived AOD is used to classify days as high or low AOD and establish the relationship between aerosol concentrations and the surface energy fluxes. High AOD reduces midday net radiation by 6%–65% coupled with a 9%–30% decrease in sensible and latent heat fluxes, although not all sites exhibit statistically significant changes. The partitioning between sensible and latent heat varies between ecosystems, with two sites showing a greater decrease in latent heat than sensible heat (Duke Forest and Walker Branch), two sites showing equivalent reductions (Harvard Forest and Bondville), and one site showing a greater decrease in sensible heat than latent heat (Morgan–Monroe). These results suggest that aerosols trigger an ecosystem-dependent response to surface flux partitioning, yet the environmental drivers for this response require further exploration.

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Xiaoyan Jiang, Sara A. Rauscher, Todd D. Ringler, David M. Lawrence, A. Park Williams, Craig D. Allen, Allison L. Steiner, D. Michael Cai, and Nate G. McDowell

Abstract

Rapid and broad-scale forest mortality associated with recent droughts, rising temperature, and insect outbreaks has been observed over western North America (NA). Climate models project additional future warming and increasing drought and water stress for this region. To assess future potential changes in vegetation distributions in western NA, the Community Earth System Model (CESM) coupled with its Dynamic Global Vegetation Model (DGVM) was used under the future A2 emissions scenario. To better span uncertainties in future climate, eight sea surface temperature (SST) projections provided by phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3) were employed as boundary conditions. There is a broad consensus among the simulations, despite differences in the simulated climate trajectories across the ensemble, that about half of the needleleaf evergreen tree coverage (from 24% to 11%) will disappear, coincident with a 14% (from 11% to 25%) increase in shrubs and grasses by the end of the twenty-first century in western NA, with most of the change occurring over the latter half of the twenty-first century. The net impact is a ~6 GtC or about 50% decrease in projected ecosystem carbon storage in this region. The findings suggest a potential for a widespread shift from tree-dominated landscapes to shrub and grass-dominated landscapes in western NA because of future warming and consequent increases in water deficits. These results highlight the need for improved process-based understanding of vegetation dynamics, particularly including mortality and the subsequent incorporation of these mechanisms into earth system models to better quantify the vulnerability of western NA forests under climate change.

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