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Will Hobbs, Matthew D. Palmer, and Didier Monselesan

Abstract

Climate model simulations of changes to Earth’s energy budget are fundamental to improve understanding of both historical and future climate change. However, coupled models are prone to “drift” (i.e., they contain spurious unforced trends in state variables) due to incomplete spinup or nonclosure of the energy budget. This work assesses the globally integrated energy budgets of 25 models in phase 5 of CMIP (CMIP5). It is shown that for many of the models there is a significant disagreement between ocean heat content changes and net top-of-atmosphere radiation. The disagreement is largely time-constant and independent of forcing scenario. Furthermore, most of the nonconservation seems to occur as a result of energy leaks external to the ocean model realm. After drift correction, the time-varying energy budget is consistent at decadal time scales, and model responses to climate forcing are not sensitive to the magnitude of their drift. This demonstrates that, although drift terms can be significant, model output can be corrected post hoc without biasing results.

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Terence J. O’Kane, Didier P. Monselesan, and James S. Risbey

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The authors undertake a multiscale spectral reexamination of the variability of the Pacific–South American (PSA) pattern and the mechanisms by which this variability occurs. Time scales from synoptic to interannual are investigated, focusing on the means by which tropical variability is communicated to the midlatitudes and on in situ forcing within the midlatitude waveguides. Particular interest is paid to what fraction of the total variability associated with the PSA, occurring on interannual time scales, is attributable to tropical forcing relative to that occurring on synoptic and intraseasonal time scales via internal waveguide dynamics. In general, it is found that the eastward-propagating wave train pattern typically associated with the PSA manifests across time scales from synoptic to interannual, with the majority of the variability occurring on synoptic-to-intraseasonal time scales largely independent of tropical convection. It is found that the small fraction of the total variance with a tropical signal occurs via the zonal component of the thermal wind modulating both the subtropical and polar jets. The respective roles of the Hadley circulation and stationary Rossby wave sources are also examined. Further, a PSA-like mode is identified in terms of the slow components of higher-order modes of tropospheric geopotential height. This study reestablishes the multiscale nonlinear nature of the PSA modes arising largely as a manifestation of internal midlatitude waveguide dynamics and local disturbances.

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Terence J. O’Kane, James S. Risbey, Christian Franzke, Illia Horenko, and Didier P. Monselesan

Abstract

Changes in the metastability of the Southern Hemisphere 500-hPa circulation are examined using both cluster analysis techniques and split-flow blocking indices. The cluster methodology is a purely data-driven approach for parameterization whereby a multiscale approximation to nonstationary dynamical processes is achieved through optimal sequences of locally stationary fast vector autoregressive factor (VARX) processes and some slow (or persistent) hidden process switching between them. Comparison is made with blocking indices commonly used in weather forecasting and climate analysis to identify dynamically relevant metastable regimes in the 500-hPa circulation in both reanalysis and Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) datasets. The analysis characterizes the metastable regime in both reanalysis and model datasets prior to 1978 as positive and negative phases of a hemispheric midlatitude blocking state with the southern annular mode (SAM) associated with a transition state. Post-1978, the SAM emerges as a true metastable state replacing the negative phase of the hemispheric blocking pattern. The hidden state frequency of occurrences exhibits strong trends. The blocking pattern dominates in the early 1980s, and then gradually decreases. There is a corresponding increase in the SAM frequency of occurrence. This trend is largely evident in the reanalysis summer and spring but was not evident in the AMIP dataset. Further comparison with the split-flow blocking indices reveals a superficial correspondence between the cluster hidden state frequency of occurrences and split-flow indices. Examination of composite states shows that the blocking indices capture splitting of the zonal flow whereas the cluster composites reflect coherent block formation. Differences in blocking climatologies from the respective methods are discussed.

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James S. Risbey, Terence J. O’Kane, Didier P. Monselesan, Christian Franzke, and Illia Horenko

Abstract

This study applies a finite-element, bounded-variation, vector autoregressive method to assess midtropospheric flow regimes characterized by regime switches between metastable states. The flow is assessed in reanalysis data from three different reanalysis sets assimilating surface data only; surface and upper-air data; and ocean, surface, and upper-air data. Results are generally consistent across the reanalyses and confirm the utility of surface-only reanalyses for capturing midtropospheric variability. The method is applied to a set of regional domains in the Northern Hemisphere and for the full-hemispheric domain. Composites of the metastable states for each region yield structures that are consistent with the well-documented teleconnection modes: the North Atlantic Oscillation in the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific–North America pattern (PNA) in the Pacific Ocean, and Scandinavian blocking over Eurasia. The PNA mode includes a clear waveguide structure in midlatitudes. The Northern Hemisphere domain yields a state composite that reflects aspects of an annular mode (Arctic Oscillation), where the annular component in midlatitudes comprises a circumglobal waveguide. The Northern Hemisphere waveguide is characterized by wavenumber 5. Some of the nodes in this circumglobal waveguide manifest as part of regional dipole structures like the PNA. This situation contrasts with the Southern Hemisphere, where the circumglobal waveguide exhibits wavenumbers 3 and 5 and is monopolar. For each of the regions and modes examined, the annual time series of residence percent in each state displays prominent decadal variability and provides a clear means of identifying regimes of the major teleconnection modes.

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Aimée B. A. Slangen, John A. Church, Xuebin Zhang, and Didier P. Monselesan

Abstract

Changes in Earth’s climate are influenced by internal climate variability and external forcings, such as changes in solar radiation, volcanic eruptions, anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHG), and aerosols. Although the response of surface temperature to external forcings has been studied extensively, this has not been done for sea level. Here, a range of climate model experiments for the twentieth century is used to study the response of global and regional sea level change to external climate forcings. Both the global mean thermosteric sea level and the regional dynamic sea level patterns show clear responses to anthropogenic forcings that are significantly different from internal climate variability and larger than the difference between models driven by the same external forcing. The regional sea level patterns are directly related to changes in surface winds in response to the external forcings. The spread between different realizations of the same model experiment is consistent with internal climate variability derived from preindustrial control simulations. The spread between the different models is larger than the internal variability, mainly in regions with large sea level responses. Although the sea level responses to GHG and anthropogenic aerosol forcing oppose each other in the global mean, there are differences on a regional scale, offering opportunities for distinguishing between these two forcings in observed sea level change.

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Alexander Sen Gupta, Nicolas C. Jourdain, Jaclyn N. Brown, and Didier Monselesan

Abstract

Climate models often exhibit spurious long-term changes independent of either internal variability or changes to external forcing. Such changes, referred to as model “drift,” may distort the estimate of forced change in transient climate simulations. The importance of drift is examined in comparison to historical trends over recent decades in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP). Comparison based on a selection of metrics suggests a significant overall reduction in the magnitude of drift from phase 3 of CMIP (CMIP3) to phase 5 of CMIP (CMIP5). The direction of both ocean and atmospheric drift is systematically biased in some models introducing statistically significant drift in globally averaged metrics. Nevertheless, for most models globally averaged drift remains weak compared to the associated forced trends and is often smaller than the difference between trends derived from different ensemble members or the error introduced by the aliasing of natural variability. An exception to this is metrics that include the deep ocean (e.g., steric sea level) where drift can dominate in forced simulations. In such circumstances drift must be corrected for using information from concurrent control experiments. Many CMIP5 models now include ocean biogeochemistry. Like physical models, biogeochemical models generally undergo long spinup integrations to minimize drift. Nevertheless, based on a limited subset of models, it is found that drift is an important consideration and must be accounted for. For properties or regions where drift is important, the drift correction method must be carefully considered. The use of a drift estimate based on the full control time series is recommended to minimize the contamination of the drift estimate by internal variability.

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Carly R. Tozer, James S. Risbey, Terence J. O’Kane, Didier P. Monselesan, and Michael J. Pook

Abstract

We assess the large-scale atmospheric dynamics influencing rainfall extremes in Tasmania, located within the Southern Hemisphere storm track. We characterize wet and dry multiday rainfall extremes in western and eastern Tasmania, two distinct climate regimes, and construct atmospheric flow composites around these extreme events. We consider the onset and decay of the events and find a link between Rossby wave trains propagating in the polar jet waveguide and wet and dry extremes across Tasmania. Of note is that the wave trains exhibit varying behavior during the different extremes. In the onset phase of rainfall extremes in western Tasmania, there is a coherent wave train in the Indian Ocean, which becomes circumglobal in extent and quasi-stationary as the event establishes and persists. Wet and dry extremes in this region are influenced by opposite phases of this circumglobal wave train pattern. In eastern Tasmania, wet extremes relate to a propagating wave train, which is first established in the Indian Ocean sector and propagates eastward to the Pacific Ocean sector as the event progresses. During dry extremes in eastern Tasmania, the wave train is first established in the Pacific Ocean, as opposed to Indian Ocean, and persists in this sector for the entire event, with a structure indicative of the Pacific–South American pattern. The findings regarding different wave train forms and their relationship to rainfall extremes have implications for extreme event attribution in other regions around the globe.

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Alexander Sen Gupta, Les C. Muir, Jaclyn N. Brown, Steven J. Phipps, Paul J. Durack, Didier Monselesan, and Susan E. Wijffels

Abstract

Even in the absence of external forcing, climate models often exhibit long-term trends that cannot be attributed to natural variability. This so-called climate drift arises for various reasons including the following: perturbations to the climate system on coupling component models together and deficiencies in model physics and numerics. When examining trends in historical or future climate simulations, it is important to know the error introduced by drift so that action can be taken where necessary. This study assesses the importance of drift for a number of climate properties at global and local scales. To illustrate this, the present paper focuses on simulated trends over the second half of the twentieth century. While drift in globally averaged surface properties is generally considerably smaller than observed and simulated twentieth-century trends, it can still introduce nontrivial errors in some models. Furthermore, errors become increasingly important at smaller scales. The direction of drift is not systematic across different models or variables, as such drift is considerably reduced in the multimodel mean. Despite drift being primarily associated with ocean adjustment, it is also apparent in atmospheric variables. For example, most models have local drift magnitudes in surface air and ocean temperatures that are typically between 15% and 35% of the twentieth-century simulation trend magnitudes for 1950–2000. Below depths of 1000–2000 m, drift dominates over any forced trend in most regions. As such steric sea level is strongly affected and for some models and regions the sea level trend direction is reversed. Thus depending on the application, drift may be negligible or may make up an important part of the simulated trend.

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James S. Risbey, Didier P. Monselesan, Terence J. O’Kane, Carly R. Tozer, Michael J. Pook, and Peter T. Hayman

Abstract

We define and examine extreme frost events at three station locations across southern Australia. A synoptic assessment of the events shows that they are generally characterized by passage of a front or trough followed by a developing blocking high. Frost typically occurs at the leading edge of the block. The very cold air pool leading to the frost event is the result of descent of cold, dry midtropospheric air parcels from regions poleward of the station. The air is exceptionally cold because it is advected across the strong meridional temperature gradients in the storm track. The air is dry because this equatorward meridional pathway requires descent and so must have origins well above the surface in the dryer midtroposphere. The position of the block and location of the dry descent are dynamically determined by large-scale waveguide modes in the polar jet waveguide. The role of the waveguide modes is deduced from composites of midtropospheric flow anomalies over the days preceding and after the frost events. These show organized wavenumber 3 or 4 wave trains, with the block associated with the frost formed as a node of the wave train. The wave trains resemble known waveguide modes such as the Pacific–South America mode, and the frost event projects clearly onto these modes during their life cycle. The strong interannual and decadal variability of extreme frost events at a location can be understood in light of event dependence on organized waveguide modes.

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James S. Risbey, Didier P. Monselesan, Amanda S. Black, Thomas S. Moore, Doug Richardson, Dougal T. Squire, and Carly R. Tozer

Abstract

From time to time atmospheric flows become organized and form coherent long-lived structures. Such structures could be propagating, quasi-stationary, or recur in place. We investigate the ability of Principal Components Analysis (PCA) and Archetypal Analysis (AA) to identify long-lived events, excluding propagating forms. Our analysis is carried out on the Southern Hemisphere mid-tropospheric flow represented by geopotential height at 500hPa (Z 500). The leading basis patterns of Z 500 for PCA and AA are similar and describe structures representing (or similar to) the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) and Pacific South American (PSA) pattern. Long-lived events are identified here from sequences of 8 days or longer where the same basis pattern dominates for PCA or AA. AA identifies more long-lived events than PCA using this approach. The most commonly occurring long-lived event for both AA and PCA is the annular SAM-like pattern. The second most commonly occurring event is the PSA-like Pacific wavetrain for both AA and PCA. For AA the flow at any given time is approximated as weighted contributions from each basis pattern, which lends itself to metrics for discriminating among basis patterns. These show that the longest long-lived events are in general better expressed than shorter events. Case studies of long-lived events featuring a blocking structure and an annular structure show that both PCA and AA can identify and discriminate the dominant basis pattern that most closely resembles the flow event.

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