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Amanda C. Maycock, Christopher J. Smith, Alexandru Rap, and Owain Rutherford

Abstract

The SOCRATES offline radiative transfer code is used to investigate the magnitude and structure of the instantaneous radiative forcing kernels (IRFKs) for five major greenhouse gases (GHGs; CO2, CH4, N2O, CFC-11, and O3). All gases produce IRFKs that peak in the tropical upper troposphere. In addition to differences in spectroscopic intensities and the position of absorption features relative to the peak of the Planck function for Earth’s temperature, the variation in current background concentration of gases substantially affects the IRFK magnitudes. When the background concentration of CO2 is reduced from parts per million to parts per trillion levels, the peak magnitude of the IRFK increases by a factor of 642. When all gases are set to parts per trillion concentrations in the troposphere, the peak IRFK magnitudes are 1.0, 3.0, 3.1, 58 and 75 Wm−2 ppmv−1 100 hPa−1 for CH4, CO2, N2O, O3 and CFC-11, respectively. The altitude of the IRFK maximum also differs, with the maximum for CFC-11 and water vapour occurring above 100 hPa while the other gases peak near 150-200 hPa. Overlap with water vapour absorption decreases the magnitude of the IRFKs for all the GHGs, particularly in the low-to-mid troposphere, but it does not strongly affect the peak IRFK altitude. Cloud radiative effects reduce the magnitude of the IRFK for CO2 by around 10-20% in the upper troposphere. The use of IRFKs to estimate IRF is found to be accurate for small amplitude perturbations, but becomes inaccurate for large amplitude changes (e.g. a doubling) for gases with a higher atmospheric optical depth.

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Yu Yeung Scott Yiu and Amanda C. Maycock

Abstract

The Amundsen Sea low (ASL) is a quasi-stationary low pressure system that affects climate in West Antarctica. Previous studies have shown that El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) modulates the position and strength of the ASL with the strongest teleconnection found in austral winter despite the amplitude of ENSO events generally being largest in austral autumn/summer. This study investigates the mechanisms behind the seasonality of the El Niño teleconnection to the Amundsen Sea region (ASR) using experiments with the HadGEM3 climate model forced with an idealized fixed El Niño sea surface temperature anomaly present throughout the year. The seasonality of the El Niño–ASR teleconnection is found to originate from seasonal differences in the large-scale zonal winds in the South Pacific sector. In austral winter, the region of strong absolute vorticity near ~30°S associated with the subtropical jet, in combination with the changes to upper-tropospheric divergence due to the El Niño perturbation, acts as an anomalous Rossby wave source that is largely absent in austral summer. Furthermore, in austral summer the poleward propagation of tropically sourced Rossby waves into the ASR is inhibited by the strong polar front jet in the South Pacific sector, which leads to Rossby wave reflection away from the ASR. In austral winter, Rossby waves are able to propagate into the ASR, forming part of the Pacific South America pattern. The lack of the Rossby wave source in the tropical Pacific and the absence of favorable conditions for wave propagation explains the weaker El Niño–ASR teleconnection in austral summer compared to austral winter.

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Paloma Trascasa-Castro, Amanda C. Maycock, Yu Yeung Scott Yiu, and Jennifer K. Fletcher

Abstract

The dependence of the winter stratospheric and Euro-Atlantic climate response on ENSO amplitude is investigated using the HadGEM3 model. Experiments are performed with imposed east Pacific sea surface temperature perturbations corresponding to Niño-3.4 anomalies of ±0.75, 1.5, 2.25, and 3.0 K. In the North Pacific, El Niño (EN) deepens and shifts the Aleutian low eastward, while the equivalent magnitude La Niña (LN) perturbations drive anomalies of opposite sign that are around 4 times weaker. The muted North Pacific response to LN can be traced back to the weaker response of tropical convection and the associated anomalous Rossby wave source. The EN perturbations weaken the Arctic polar vortex, with the winter mean zonal mean zonal wind at 60°N and 10 hPa decreasing approximately linearly with Niño-3.4 anomaly by around −3.6 m s−1 K−1. For the strongest EN case (+3 K), the frequency of sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs) increases by ~60% compared to the control experiment. Hence the results do not support a saturation of the stratospheric pathway for strong EN as suggested in previous literature. The equivalent amplitude LN perturbations cause a weak strengthening of the polar vortex and no substantial change in SSW frequency, in contrast to some reanalysis-based studies. EN induces a negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index throughout boreal winter, which increases approximately linearly with the Niño-3.4 anomaly by around −0.6 standard deviations K−1. Only the response to the strongest LN perturbations projects onto a weak positive NAO in November, suggesting that the mechanism for the Euro-Atlantic response to LN may be distinct from EN.

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Michelle R. McCrystall, J. Scott Hosking, Ian P. White, and Amanda C. Maycock

Abstract

While rapid changes in Arctic climate over recent decades are widely documented, the importance of different driving mechanisms is still debated. A previous study proposed a causal connection between recent tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) trends and circulation changes over northern Canada and Greenland (NCG). Here, using the HadGEM3-A model, we perform a suite of sensitivity experiments to investigate the influence of tropical SSTs on winter atmospheric circulation over NCG. The experiments are forced with observed SST changes between an “early” (1979–88) and “late” period (2003–12) and applied across the entire tropics (TropSST), the tropical Pacific (PacSST), and the tropical Atlantic (AtlSST). In contrast to the previous study, all three experiments show a negative 200-hPa eddy geopotential height (Z200) anomaly over NCG in winter, which is similar to the response in AMIP experiments from four other climate models. The positive Z200 NCG anomaly in ERA-Interim between the two periods is inside the bounds of internal variability estimated from bootstrap sampling. The NCG circulation anomaly in the TropSST experiment is associated with a Rossby wave train originating from the tropical Pacific, with an important contribution coming from the tropical Atlantic SSTs connected via an atmospheric bridge through the tropical Pacific. This generates anomalous upper-level convergence and a positive Rossby wave source anomaly near the North Pacific jet exit region. Hence, while a tropics–Arctic teleconnection is evident, its influence on recent Arctic regional climate differs from observed changes and warrants further research.

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Amanda C. Maycock, Gibbon I. T. Masukwedza, Peter Hitchcock, and Isla R. Simpson

Abstract

Changes to the preferred states, or regime behavior, of the North Atlantic eddy-driven jet (EDJ) following a major sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) is examined using a large ensemble experiment from the Canadian Middle Atmosphere Model in which the stratosphere is nudged toward an SSW. In the 3 months following the SSW (January–March), the North Atlantic EDJ shifts equatorward by ~3°, on average; this arises from an increased occurrence of the EDJ’s south regime and reductions in its north and central regimes. Qualitatively similar behavior is shown in a reanalysis dataset. We show that under SSW conditions the south regime becomes more persistent and that this can explain the overall increase in the EDJ latitude decorrelation time scale. A cluster analysis reveals that, following the SSW, the south EDJ regime is characterized by weaker low-level baroclinicity and eddy heat fluxes in the North Atlantic Ocean. We hypothesize, therefore, that the increased persistence of the south regime is related to the weaker baroclinicity leading to slower growth rates of the unstable modes and hence a slower buildup of eddy heat flux, which has been shown to precede EDJ transitions. In the North Atlantic sector, the surface response to the SSW projects onto a negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) pattern, with almost no change in the east Atlantic (EA) pattern. This behavior appears to be distinct from the modeled intrinsic variability in the EDJ, where the jet latitude index captures variations in both the NAO and EA patterns. The results offer new insight into the mechanisms for stratosphere–troposphere coupling following SSWs.

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Amanda C. Maycock, Manoj M. Joshi, Keith P. Shine, and Adam A. Scaife

Abstract

Observations show that stratospheric water vapor (SWV) concentrations increased by ~30% between 1980 and 2000. SWV has also been projected to increase by up to a factor of 2 over the twenty-first century. Trends in SWV impact stratospheric temperatures, which may lead to changes in the stratospheric circulation. Perturbations in temperature and wind in the stratosphere have been shown to influence the extratropical tropospheric circulation. This study investigates the response to a uniform doubling in SWV from 3 to 6 ppmv in a comprehensive stratosphere-resolving atmospheric GCM. The increase in SWV causes stratospheric cooling with a maximum amplitude of 5–6 K in the polar lower stratosphere and 2–3 K in the tropical lower stratosphere. The zonal wind on the upper flanks of the subtropical jets is more westerly by up to ~5 m s−1. Changes in resolved wave drag in the stratosphere result in an increase in the strength of tropical upwelling associated with the Brewer–Dobson circulation of ~10% throughout the year. In the troposphere, the increase in SWV causes significant meridional dipole changes in the midlatitude zonal-mean zonal wind of up to 2.8 m s−1 at 850 hPa, which are largest in boreal winter in both hemispheres. This suggests a more poleward storm track under uniformly increased stratospheric water vapor. The circulation changes in both the stratosphere and troposphere are almost entirely due to the increase in SWV at pressures greater than 50 hPa. The results show that long-term trends in SWV may impact stratospheric temperatures and wind, the strength of the Brewer–Dobson circulation, and extratropical surface climate.

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William J. Dow, Amanda C. Maycock, Marcus Lofverstrom, and Christopher J. Smith

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Past studies have suggested that regional trends in anthropogenic aerosols can influence the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) through modulation of the Aleutian low. However, the robustness of this connection is debated. This study analyzes changes to the Aleutian low in an ensemble of climate models forced with large, idealized global and regional black carbon (BC) and sulfate aerosol perturbations. To isolate the role of ocean feedbacks, the experiments are performed with an interactive ocean and with prescribed sea surface temperatures. The results show a robust weakening of the Aleutian low forced by a global tenfold increase in BC in both experiment configurations. A linearized steady-state primitive equation model is forced with diabatic heating anomalies to investigate the mechanisms through which heating from BC emissions influences the Aleutian low. The heating from BC absorption over India and East Asia generates Rossby wave trains that propagate into the North Pacific sector, forming an upper-tropospheric ridge. Sources of BC outside of East Asia enhance the weakening of the Aleutian low. The responses to a global fivefold and regional tenfold increase in sulfate aerosols over Asia show poor consistency across climate models, with a multimodel mean response that does not project strongly onto the Aleutian low. These findings for a large, idealized step increase in regional sulfate aerosol differ from previous studies that suggest the transient increase in sulfate aerosols over Asia during the early twenty-first century weakened the Aleutian low and induced a transition to a negative PDO phase.

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Kevin M. Grise, Sean M. Davis, Isla R. Simpson, Darryn W. Waugh, Qiang Fu, Robert J. Allen, Karen H. Rosenlof, Caroline C. Ummenhofer, Kristopher B. Karnauskas, Amanda C. Maycock, Xiao-Wei Quan, Thomas Birner, and Paul W. Staten

Abstract

Previous studies have documented a poleward shift in the subsiding branches of Earth’s Hadley circulation since 1979 but have disagreed on the causes of these observed changes and the ability of global climate models to capture them. This synthesis paper reexamines a number of contradictory claims in the past literature and finds that the tropical expansion indicated by modern reanalyses is within the bounds of models’ historical simulations for the period 1979–2005. Earlier conclusions that models were underestimating the observed trends relied on defining the Hadley circulation using the mass streamfunction from older reanalyses. The recent observed tropical expansion has similar magnitudes in the annual mean in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) and Southern Hemisphere (SH), but models suggest that the factors driving the expansion differ between the hemispheres. In the SH, increasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) and stratospheric ozone depletion contributed to tropical expansion over the late twentieth century, and if GHGs continue increasing, the SH tropical edge is projected to shift further poleward over the twenty-first century, even as stratospheric ozone concentrations recover. In the NH, the contribution of GHGs to tropical expansion is much smaller and will remain difficult to detect in a background of large natural variability, even by the end of the twenty-first century. To explain similar recent tropical expansion rates in the two hemispheres, natural variability must be taken into account. Recent coupled atmosphere–ocean variability, including the Pacific decadal oscillation, has contributed to tropical expansion. However, in models forced with observed sea surface temperatures, tropical expansion rates still vary widely because of internal atmospheric variability.

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Steven C. Hardiman, Ian A. Boutle, Andrew C. Bushell, Neal Butchart, Mike J. P. Cullen, Paul R. Field, Kalli Furtado, James C. Manners, Sean F. Milton, Cyril Morcrette, Fiona M. O’Connor, Ben J. Shipway, Chris Smith, David N. Walters, Martin R. Willett, Keith D. Williams, Nigel Wood, N. Luke Abraham, James Keeble, Amanda C. Maycock, John Thuburn, and Matthew T. Woodhouse

Abstract

A warm bias in tropical tropopause temperature is found in the Met Office Unified Model (MetUM), in common with most models from phase 5 of CMIP (CMIP5). Key dynamical, microphysical, and radiative processes influencing the tropical tropopause temperature and lower-stratospheric water vapor concentrations in climate models are investigated using the MetUM. A series of sensitivity experiments are run to separate the effects of vertical advection, ice optical and microphysical properties, convection, cirrus clouds, and atmospheric composition on simulated tropopause temperature and lower-stratospheric water vapor concentrations in the tropics. The numerical accuracy of the vertical advection, determined in the MetUM by the choice of interpolation and conservation schemes used, is found to be particularly important. Microphysical and radiative processes are found to influence stratospheric water vapor both through modifying the tropical tropopause temperature and through modifying upper-tropospheric water vapor concentrations, allowing more water vapor to be advected into the stratosphere. The representation of any of the processes discussed can act to significantly reduce biases in tropical tropopause temperature and stratospheric water vapor in a physical way, thereby improving climate simulations.

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Paul W. Staten, Kevin M. Grise, Sean M. Davis, Kristopher B. Karnauskas, Darryn W. Waugh, Amanda C. Maycock, Qiang Fu, Kerry Cook, Ori Adam, Isla R. Simpson, Robert J Allen, Karen Rosenlof, Gang Chen, Caroline C. Ummenhofer, Xiao-Wei Quan, James P. Kossin, Nicholas A. Davis, and Seok-Woo Son

Abstract

Over the past 15 years, numerous studies have suggested that the sinking branches of Earth’s Hadley circulation and the associated subtropical dry zones have shifted poleward over the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century. Early estimates of this tropical widening from satellite observations and reanalyses varied from 0.25° to 3° latitude per decade, while estimates from global climate models show widening at the lower end of the observed range. In 2016, two working groups, the U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) working group on the Changing Width of the Tropical Belt and the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) Tropical Width Diagnostics Intercomparison Project, were formed to synthesize current understanding of the magnitude, causes, and impacts of the recent tropical widening evident in observations. These working groups concluded that the large rates of observed tropical widening noted by earlier studies resulted from their use of metrics that poorly capture changes in the Hadley circulation, or from the use of reanalyses that contained spurious trends. Accounting for these issues reduces the range of observed expansion rates to 0.25°–0.5° latitude decade‒1—within the range from model simulations. Models indicate that most of the recent Northern Hemisphere tropical widening is consistent with natural variability, whereas increasing greenhouse gases and decreasing stratospheric ozone likely played an important role in Southern Hemisphere widening. Whatever the cause or rate of expansion, understanding the regional impacts of tropical widening requires additional work, as different forcings can produce different regional patterns of widening.

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