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Stephen S. Leroy, Gianluca Redaelli, and Barbara Grassi

Abstract

The prioritization accorded to observation types currently being considered for a space-based climate observing system is extended from a previous study. Hindcast averages and trends from 1970 through 2005 of longitude–latitude maps of 200-hPa geopotential height and of net downward shortwave and longwave radiation at the top of the atmosphere are investigated as relevant tests of climate models for predicting multidecadal surface air temperature change. To discover the strongest tests of climate models, Bayes’s theorem is applied to the output provided by phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison, and correlations of hindcasts and multidecadal climate prediction are used to rank the observation types and long-term averages versus long-term trends. Spatial patterns in data are shown to contain more information for improving climate prediction than do global averages of data, but no statistically significant test is found by considering select locations on the globe. Eigenmodes of intermodel differences in hindcasts may likely serve as tests of climate models that can improve interdecadal climate prediction, in particular the rate of Arctic tropospheric expansion, which is measurable by Earth radio occultation.

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Barbara Grassi, Gianluca Redaelli, and Guido Visconti

Abstract

The response of the Southern Hemisphere (SH) polar atmosphere to the tropical sea surface temperature (SST) during the 2002 winter–spring season is investigated by using a general circulation model (GCM). The SH stratospheric winter of 2002 was particularly unusual, characterized by a weaker-than-normal polar vortex during the whole season. It also registered, at the end of September, the first major warming yet observed in the SH. This event is unexpected in the SH, and it is supposed to be induced by a “preconditioning” of the polar vortex starting at the beginning of the winter. Atmospheric GCM experiments with prescribed SST boundary conditions are performed. The sensitivity of the Antarctic dynamics to the tropical SST of 2002 (a year characterized by an El Niño event of moderate intensity) is studied, and the uniqueness of the 2002 tropical oceanic condition is investigated through the comparison of the simulated response of the climatic system to 2002 and 1997 tropical SST (1997 being a year with a strong El Niño event). Model results highlight a primary role played by the tropical SST of 2002 in the development of the peculiar characteristics of the Antarctic dynamics during the winter months that appears to be a necessary condition for the generation of the anomalous destabilization of the polar vortex during the following spring. Results for June 2002 show a strong generation of vertically propagating waves resulting from the tropical SST that, through the perturbation of the westerly jet at middle latitudes, produces a preconditioning of the polar vortex by affecting the wave refraction index. The particular structure of the tropical SST anomalies during the winter of 2002 is thought to have influenced the subsequent preconditioning of the stratospheric vortex.

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Barbara Grassi, Gianluca Redaelli, and Guido Visconti

Abstract

During the last decade, Arctic sea ice cover has experienced an accelerated decline that has been suggested to drive the increased occurrence of extremely cold winter events over continental Europe. Observations and modeling studies seem to support the idea that Mediterranean climate is also changing. In this work, the authors estimate potential effects on the Mediterranean Basin, during the winter period, of Arctic sea ice reduction. Two sets of simulations have been performed by prescribing different values of sea ice concentrations (50% and 20%) on the Barents–Kara Seas in the NCAR Community Atmosphere Model, version 3 (CAM3), as representative of idealized present and future sea ice conditions. Global model simulations have then been used to run the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) Regional Climate Model, version 4 (RegCM4), over central Europe and the Mediterranean domain. Simulations provide evidence for a large-scale atmospheric circulation response to sea ice reduction, resembling the negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) and characterized by a wave activity flux from the North Atlantic toward the Mediterranean Basin, during winter months. An increase in the occurrence and intensity of extreme cold events, over continental Europe, and extreme precipitation events, over the entire Mediterranean Basin, was found. In particular, simulations suggest an increased risk of winter flooding in southern Italy, Greece, and the Iberian Peninsula.

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Barbara Grassi, Gianluca Redaelli, Pablo Osvaldo Canziani, and Guido Visconti

Abstract

Recent studies have shown that the tropical belt (TB) has progressively expanded since at least the late 1970s. This trend has been largely attributed to the radiative forcing due to greenhouse gas (GHG) increase and stratospheric ozone depletion, even if an influence of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies has been also suggested. The impact of the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) on the TB width is investigated in this work. The study is performed by using both Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) and idealized simulations, produced by the NCAR Community Atmosphere Model, version 3 (CAM3) GCM and reanalysis data [40-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis (ERA-40), ERA-Interim, and Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA)]. Reanalyses show that a switch of the PDO from a positive to a negative phase can lead to a significant TB expansion during the equinoxes. This effect, indicating a possible PDO contribution to the widening that characterized the TB width during the last decades, is not correctly reproduced by model simulations. Deficiencies in the sensitivity of model-simulated convective processes to SST anomalies are suggested as a possible cause of the TB widening underestimation.

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