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Zane Martin
,
Clara Orbe
,
Shuguang Wang
, and
Adam Sobel

Abstract

Observational studies show a strong connection between the intraseasonal Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) and the stratospheric quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO): the boreal winter MJO is stronger, more predictable, and has different teleconnections when the QBO in the lower stratosphere is easterly versus westerly. Despite the strength of the observed connection, global climate models do not produce an MJO–QBO link. Here the authors use a current-generation ocean–atmosphere coupled NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies global climate model (Model E2.1) to examine the MJO–QBO link. To represent the QBO with minimal bias, the model zonal-mean stratospheric zonal and meridional winds are relaxed to reanalysis fields from 1980 to 2017. The model troposphere, including the MJO, is allowed to freely evolve. The model with stratospheric nudging captures QBO signals well, including QBO temperature anomalies. However, an ensemble of nudged simulations still lacks an MJO–QBO connection.

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Molly E. Menzel
,
Darryn W. Waugh
, and
Clara Orbe

Abstract

There are myriad ways atmospheric circulation responds to increased CO2. In the troposphere, the region of the tropical upwelling narrows, the Hadley cells expand, and the upper-level subtropical zonal winds that comprise the subtropical jet strengthen. In the stratosphere, the tropical upwelling narrows and strengthens, enhancing the Brewer–Dobson circulation. Despite the robustness of these projections, dynamical coupling between the features remains unclear. In this study, we analyze output from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) ModelE coupled climate model to examine any connection between the upper tropospheric and lower stratospheric circulation by considering the features’ seasonality, hemispheric asymmetry, scaling, and transient response to a broad range of CO2 forcings. We find that a narrowing and strengthening of upper tropospheric upwelling occurs with a strengthening of the subtropical jet. There is also a narrowing and strengthening of lower stratospheric upwelling that is related to an equatorward shift in critical latitude for wave breaking and the associated strengthening of the subtropical lower stratosphere’s zonal winds. However, the stratospheric responses display different seasonal, hemispheric, and transient patterns than those in the troposphere, indicating independent circulation changes between the two domains.

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Clara Orbe
,
Darryn W. Waugh
,
Paul A. Newman
, and
Stephen Steenrod

Abstract

The distribution of transit times from the Northern Hemisphere (NH) midlatitude surface is a fundamental property of tropospheric transport. Here, the authors present an analysis of the transit-time distribution (TTD) since air last contacted the NH midlatitude surface, as simulated by the NASA Global Modeling Initiative Chemistry Transport Model. Throughout the troposphere, the TTD is characterized by young modes and long tails. This results in mean transit times or “mean ages” Γ that are significantly larger than their corresponding modal transit times or “modal ages” τ mode, especially in the NH, where Γ ≈ 0.5 yr, while τ mode < 20 days. In addition, the shape of the TTD changes throughout the troposphere as the ratio of the spectral width Δ—the second temporal moment of the TTD—to the mean age decreases sharply in the NH from ~2.5 at NH high latitudes to ~0.7 in the Southern Hemisphere (SH). Decreases in Δ/Γ in the SH reflect a narrowing of the TTD relative to its mean and physically correspond to changes in the contributions of fast transport paths relative to slow eddy-diffusive recirculations. It is shown that fast transport paths control the patterns and seasonal cycles of idealized 5- and 50-day loss tracers in the Arctic and the tropics, respectively. The relationship between different TTD time scales and the idealized loss tracers, therefore, is conditional on the shape of the TTD.

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Cheng Zheng
,
Mingfang Ting
,
Yutian Wu
,
Nathan Kurtz
,
Clara Orbe
,
Patrick Alexander
,
Richard Seager
, and
Marco Tedesco

Abstract

We investigate wintertime extreme sea ice loss events on synoptic to subseasonal time scales over the Barents–Kara Sea, where the largest sea ice variability is located. Consistent with previous studies, extreme sea ice loss events are associated with moisture intrusions over the Barents–Kara Sea, which are driven by the large-scale atmospheric circulation. In addition to the role of downward longwave radiation associated with moisture intrusions, which is emphasized by previous studies, our analysis shows that strong turbulent heat fluxes are associated with extreme sea ice melting events, with both turbulent sensible and latent heat fluxes contributing, although turbulent sensible heat fluxes dominate. Our analysis also shows that these events are connected to tropical convective anomalies. A dipole pattern of convective anomalies with enhanced convection over the Maritime Continent and suppressed convection over the central to eastern Pacific is consistently detected about 6–10 days prior to extreme sea ice loss events. This pattern is associated with either the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) or El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Composites show that extreme sea ice loss events are connected to tropical convection via Rossby wave propagation in the midlatitudes. However, tropical convective anomalies alone are not sufficient to trigger extreme sea ice loss events, suggesting that extratropical variability likely modulates the connection between tropical convection and extreme sea ice loss events.

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Rei Chemke
,
Laure Zanna
,
Clara Orbe
,
Lori T. Sentman
, and
Lorenzo M. Polvani

Abstract

Climate models project an intensification of the wintertime North Atlantic Ocean storm track, over its downstream region, by the end of this century. Previous studies have suggested that ocean–atmosphere coupling plays a key role in this intensification, but the precise role of the different components of the coupling has not been explored and quantified. In this paper, using a hierarchy of ocean coupling experiments, we isolate and quantify the respective roles of thermodynamic (changes in surface heat fluxes) and dynamic (changes in ocean heat flux convergence) ocean coupling in the projected intensification of North Atlantic transient eddy kinetic energy (TEKE). We show that dynamic coupling accounts for nearly all of the future TEKE strengthening as it overcomes the much smaller effect of surface heat flux changes to weaken the TEKE. We further show that by reducing the Arctic amplification in the North Atlantic, ocean heat flux convergence increases the meridional temperature gradient aloft, causing a larger eddy growth rate and resulting in the strengthening of North Atlantic TEKE. Our results stress the importance of better monitoring and investigating the changes in ocean heat transport, for improving climate change adaptation strategies.

Significance Statement

By the end of this century, the North Atlantic Ocean storm track is projected to intensify on its eastward flank. Such intensification will have large societal impacts, mostly over western Europe. Thus, it is critical to better understand the mechanism underlying the intensification of the storm track. Here we investigate the role of ocean coupling in the future intensification of the North Atlantic storm track and find that ocean heat transport processes are responsible for the strengthening of the storm track. Our results suggest that better monitoring the changes in ocean heat transport will hopefully improve climate change adaption strategies.

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Zachary McGraw
,
Kevin DallaSanta
,
Lorenzo M. Polvani
,
Kostas Tsigaridis
,
Clara Orbe
, and
Susanne E. Bauer

Abstract

Volcanic super-eruptions have been theorized to cause severe global cooling, with the 74 kya Toba eruption purported to have driven humanity to near-extinction. However, this eruption left little physical evidence of its severity and models diverge greatly on the magnitude of post-eruption cooling. A key factor controlling the super-eruption climate response is the size of volcanic sulfate aerosol, a quantity that left no physical record and is poorly constrained by models. Here we show that this knowledge gap severely limits confidence in model-based estimates of super-volcanic cooling, and accounts for much of the disagreement among prior studies. By simulating super-eruptions over a range of aerosol sizes, we obtain global mean responses varying from extreme cooling all the way to the previously unexplored scenario of widespread warming. We also use an interactive aerosol model to evaluate the scaling between injected sulfur mass and aerosol size. Combining our model results with the available paleoclimate constraints applicable to large eruptions, we estimate that global volcanic cooling is unlikely to exceed 1.5°C no matter how massive the stratospheric injection. Super-eruptions, we conclude, may be incapable of altering global temperatures substantially more than the largest Common Era eruptions. This lack of exceptional cooling could explain why no single super-eruption event has resulted in firm evidence of widespread catastrophe for humans or ecosystems.

Significance Statement

Whether volcanic super-eruptions pose a threat to humanity remains a subject of debate, with climate models disagreeing on the magnitude of global post-eruption cooling. We demonstrate that this disagreement primarily stems from a lack of constraint on the size of volcanic sulfate aerosol particles. By evaluating the range of aerosol size scenarios, we demonstrate that eruptions may be incapable of causing more than 1.5°C cooling no matter how much sulfur they inject into the stratosphere. This could explain why archaeological records provide no evidence of increased human mortality following the Toba super-eruption. Further, we raise the unexplored possibility that the largest super-eruptions could cause global-scale warming.

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Clara Orbe
,
Paul A. Newman
,
Darryn W. Waugh
,
Mark Holzer
,
Luke D. Oman
,
Feng Li
, and
Lorenzo M. Polvani

Abstract

The first climatology of airmass origin in the Arctic is presented in terms of rigorously defined airmass fractions that partition air according to where it last contacted the planetary boundary layer (PBL). Results from a present-day climate integration of the Goddard Earth Observing System Chemistry–Climate Model (GEOSCCM) reveal that the majority of air in the Arctic below 700 mb last contacted the PBL poleward of 60°N. By comparison, 62% (±0.8%) of the air above 700 mb originates over Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes (i.e., “midlatitude air”). Seasonal variations in the airmass fractions above 700 mb reveal that during boreal winter air from midlatitudes originates primarily over the oceans, with 26% (±1.9%) last contacting the PBL over the eastern Pacific, 21% (±0.87%) over the Atlantic, and 16% (±1.2%) over the western Pacific. During summer, by comparison, midlatitude air originates primarily over land, overwhelmingly so over Asia [41% (±1.0%)] and, to a lesser extent, over North America [24% (±1.5%)]. Seasonal variations in the airmass fractions are interpreted in terms of changes in the large-scale ventilation of the midlatitude boundary layer and the midlatitude tropospheric jet.

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Anastasia Romanou
,
David Rind
,
Jeff Jonas
,
Ron Miller
,
Maxwell Kelley
,
Gary Russell
,
Clara Orbe
,
Larissa Nazarenko
,
Rebecca Latto
, and
Gavin A. Schmidt

Abstract

A 10-member ensemble simulation with the NASA GISS-E2-1-G climate model shows a clear bifurcation in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) strength under the SSP2–4.5 extended scenario. At 26°N, the bifurcation leads to 8 strong AMOC and 2 much weaker AMOC states, while at 48°N, it leads to 8 stable AMOC-on and 2 nearly AMOC-off states, the latter lasting approximately 800 years. A variety of fully coupled models have demonstrated tipping points in AMOC through hosing experiments, i.e., prescribing sufficient freshwater inputs in the subpolar North Atlantic. In the GISS simulations, there are no external freshwater perturbations. The bifurcation arises freely in the coupled system and is the result of stochastic variability (noise-induced bifurcation) associated with sea ice transport and melting in the Irminger Sea after a slowing of the greenhouse gas forcing. While the AMOC strength follows the near shutdown of the Labrador Sea deep convection initially, the Irminger Sea salinity and deep mixing determine the timing of the AMOC recovery or near collapse at 48°N, which varies widely across the ensemble members. Other feedbacks such as ice-albedo, ice-evaporation, E − P, and the overturning salt-advection feedback play a secondary role that may enhance or reduce the primary mechanism which is ice melt. We believe this is the first time that a coupled climate model has shown such a bifurcation across an initial condition ensemble and might imply that there is a chance for significant and prolonged AMOC slow down due to internal variability of the system.

Significance Statement

We believe this is the first time that divergent AMOC behavior has been reported for an ensemble of Earth system model simulations using identical climate forcing and no prescribed freshwater perturbations. This response is a manifestation of noise-induced bifurcation, enhanced by feedbacks, revealing the role stochastic (or intrinsic) variability may play in AMOC stability.

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Clara Orbe
,
Paul A. Newman
,
Darryn W. Waugh
,
Mark Holzer
,
Luke D. Oman
,
Feng Li
, and
Lorenzo M. Polvani

Abstract

Future changes in transport from Northern Hemisphere (NH) midlatitudes into the Arctic are examined using rigorously defined air-mass fractions that partition air in the Arctic according to where it last had contact with the planetary boundary layer (PBL). Boreal winter (December–February) and summer (June–August) air-mass fraction climatologies are calculated for the modeled climate of the Goddard Earth Observing System Chemistry–Climate Model (GEOSCCM) forced with the end-of-twenty-first century greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances. The modeled projections indicate that the fraction of air in the Arctic that last contacted the PBL over NH midlatitudes (or air of “midlatitude origin”) will increase by about 10% in both winter and summer. The projected increases during winter are largest in the upper and middle Arctic troposphere, where they reflect an upward and poleward shift in the transient eddy meridional wind, a robust dynamical response among comprehensive climate models. The boreal winter response is dominated by (~5%–10%) increases in the air-mass fractions originating over the eastern Pacific and the Atlantic, while the response in boreal summer mainly reflects (~5%) increases in air of Asian and North American origin. The results herein suggest that future changes in transport from midlatitudes may impact the composition—and, hence, radiative budget—in the Arctic, independent of changes in emissions.

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Clara Orbe
,
David Rind
,
Ron L. Miller
,
Larissa S. Nazarenko
,
Anastasia Romanou
,
Jeffrey Jonas
,
Gary L. Russell
,
Maxwell Kelley
, and
Gavin A. Schmidt

Abstract

Climate models project a future weakening of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), but the impacts of this weakening on climate remain highly uncertain. A key challenge in quantifying the impact of an AMOC decline is in isolating its influence on climate, relative to other changes associated with increased greenhouse gases. Here we isolate the climate impacts of a weakened AMOC in the broader context of a warming climate using a unique ensemble of Shared Socioeconomic Pathway (SSP) 2–4.5 integrations that was performed using the Climate Model Intercomparison Project phase 6 (CMIP6) version of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies ModelE (E2.1). In these runs internal variability alone results in a spontaneous bifurcation of the ocean flow, wherein 2 out of 10 ensemble members exhibit an entire AMOC collapse, while the other 8 members recover at various stages despite identical forcing of each ensemble member and with no externally prescribed freshwater perturbation. We show that an AMOC collapse results in an abrupt northward shift and strengthening of the Northern Hemisphere (NH) Hadley cell (HC) and intensification of the northern midlatitude eddy-driven jet. We then use a set of coupled atmosphere–ocean abrupt CO2 experiments spanning the range 1 times to 5 times CO2 (1x to 5xCO2) to show that this response to an AMOC collapse results in a nonlinear shift in the NH circulation moving from 2xCO2 to 3xCO2. Slab-ocean versions of these experiments, by comparison, do not capture this nonlinear behavior. Our results suggest that changes in ocean heat flux convergences associated with an AMOC collapse—while highly uncertain—can result in profound changes in the NH circulation and continued efforts to constrain the AMOC response to future climate change are needed.

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