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Y. Peings, D. Saint-Martin, and H. Douville

Abstract

The climate version of the general circulation model Action de Recherche Petite Echelle Grande Echelle (ARPEGE-Climat) is used to explore the relationship between the autumn Siberian snow and the subsequent winter northern annular mode by imposing snow anomalies over Siberia. As the model presents some biases in the representation of the polar vortex, a nudging methodology is used to obtain a more realistic but still interactive extratropical stratosphere in the model. Free and nudged sensitivity experiments are compared to discuss the dependence of the results on the northern stratosphere climatology. For each experiment, a positive snow mass anomaly imposed from October to March over Siberia leads to significant impacts on the winter atmospheric circulation in the extratropics. In line with previous studies, the model response resembles the negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation. The well-documented stratospheric pathway between snow and the Arctic Oscillation operates in the nudged experiment, while a more zonal propagation of the signal is found in the free experiment. Thus, the study provides two main findings: it supports the influence of Siberian snow on the winter extratropical circulation and highlights the importance of the northern stratosphere representation in the models to capture this teleconnection. These findings could have important implications for seasonal forecasting, as most of the operational models present biases similar to those of the ARPEGE-Climat model.

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D. J. L. Olivié, G. P. Peters, and D. Saint-Martin

Abstract

The global-mean surface air temperature response of the climate system to a specific radiative forcing shows characteristic time scales. Identifying these time scales and their corresponding amplitudes (climate sensitivity) allows one to approximate the response to arbitrary radiative forcings. The authors estimate these time scales for a set of atmosphere–ocean general circulation models (AOGCMs) based on relatively short integrations of 100–300 yr for some idealized forcings. Two modes can be clearly distinguished but a large spread in time scales and climate sensitivities exists among the AOGCMs. The analysis herein also shows that different factors influence the mode estimates. The value and uncertainty of the smallest time scale estimate is significantly lower when based on step scenarios than gradual scenarios; the uncertainty on the climate sensitivity of the slow mode can only be reduced significantly by performing longer AOGCM simulations; and scenarios with only a monotonically increasing forcing do not easily permit the climate sensitivity and the response time for the slow mode to be disentangled. Finally, climate sensitivities can be estimated more accurately than response times.

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O. Geoffroy, D. Saint-Martin, D. J. L. Olivié, A. Voldoire, G. Bellon, and S. Tytéca

Abstract

This is the first part of a series of two articles analyzing the global thermal properties of atmosphere–ocean coupled general circulation models (AOGCMs) within the framework of a two-layer energy-balance model (EBM). In this part, the general analytical solution of the system is given and two idealized climate change scenarios, one with a step forcing and one with a linear forcing, are discussed. These solutions give a didactic description of the contributions from the equilibrium response and of the fast and slow transient responses during a climate transition. Based on these analytical solutions, a simple and physically based procedure to calibrate the two-layer model parameters using an AOGCM step-forcing experiment is introduced. Using this procedure, the global thermal properties of 16 AOGCMs participating in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) are determined. It is shown that, for a given AOGCM, the EBM tuned with only the abrupt 4×CO2 experiment is able to reproduce with a very good accuracy the temperature evolution in both a step-forcing and a linear-forcing experiment. The role of the upper-ocean and deep-ocean heat uptakes in the fast and slow responses is also discussed. One of the main weaknesses of the simple EBM discussed in this part is its ability to represent the evolution of the top-of-the-atmosphere radiative imbalance in the transient regime. This issue is addressed in Part II by taking into account the efficacy factor of deep-ocean heat uptake.

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O. Geoffroy, D. Saint-Martin, G. Bellon, A. Voldoire, D. J. L. Olivié, and S. Tytéca

Abstract

In this second part of a series of two articles analyzing the global thermal properties of atmosphere–ocean coupled general circulation models (AOGCMs) within the framework of a two-layer energy-balance model (EBM), the role of the efficacy of deep-ocean heat uptake is investigated. Taking into account such an efficacy factor is shown to amount to representing the effect of deep-ocean heat uptake on the local strength of the radiative feedback in the transient regime. It involves an additional term in the formulation of the radiative imbalance at the top of the atmosphere (TOA), which explains the nonlinearity between radiative imbalance and the mean surface temperature observed in some AOGCMs. An analytical solution of this system is given and this simple linear EBM is calibrated for the set of 16 AOGCMs of phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) studied in Part I. It is shown that both the net radiative fluxes at TOA and the global surface temperature transient response are well represented by the simple EBM over the available period of simulations. Differences between this two-layer EBM and the previous version without an efficacy factor are analyzed and relationships between parameters are discussed. The simple model calibration applied to AOGCMs constitutes a new method for estimating their respective equilibrium climate sensitivity and adjusted radiative forcing amplitude from short-term step-forcing simulations and more generally a method to compute their global thermal properties.

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Y. Peings, H. Douville, J. Colin, D. Saint Martin, and Gudrun Magnusdottir

Abstract

This study explores the wintertime extratropical atmospheric response to Siberian snow anomalies in fall, using observations and two distinct atmospheric general circulation models. The role of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) in modulating this response is discussed by differentiating easterly and westerly QBO years. The remote influence of Siberian snow anomalies is found to be weak in the models, especially in the stratosphere where the “Holton–Tan” effect of the QBO dominates the simulated snow influence on the polar vortex. At the surface, discrepancies between composite analyses from observations and model results question the causal relationship between snow and the atmospheric circulation, suggesting that the atmosphere might have driven snow anomalies rather than the other way around. When both forcings are combined, the simulations suggest destructive interference between the response to positive snow anomalies and easterly QBO (and vice versa), at odds with the hypothesis that the snow–North Atlantic Oscillation/Arctic Oscillation [(N)AO] teleconnection in recent decades has been promoted by the QBO. Although model limitations in capturing the relationship exist, altogether these results suggest that the snow–(N)AO teleconnection may be a stochastic artifact rather than a genuine atmospheric response to snow-cover variability. This study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that climate models do not capture a robust and stationary snow–(N)AO relationship. It also highlights the need for extending observations and/or improving models to progress on this matter.

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