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Felix Bunzel and Hauke Schmidt

Abstract

Most climate models simulate a strengthening of the Brewer–Dobson circulation (BDC) under a changing climate. However, the magnitude of the trend as well as the underlying mechanisms varies significantly among the models. In this work the impact of both vertical resolution and vertical extent of a model on the simulated BDC change is investigated by analyzing sensitivity simulations performed with the general circulation model ECHAM6 in three different model configurations for three different climate states. Tropical upwelling velocities and age of stratospheric air are used as measures for the strength of the BDC. Both consistently show a BDC strengthening from the preindustrial to the future climate state for all configurations of the model. However, the amplitude and origin of this change vary between the different setups. Analyses of the tropical upward mass flux indicate that in the model with a lid at 10 hPa the BDC strengthening at 70 hPa is primarily produced by resolved wave drag, while in the model with a higher lid (0.01 hPa) the parameterized wave drag yields the main contribution to the BDC increase. This implies that consistent changes in the BDC originate from different causes when the stratosphere is not sufficiently resolved in a model. Furthermore, the effect of enhancing the horizontal diffusion in the upper model layers to avoid resolved wave reflection at the model lid is quantified, and a possible link to the different behavior of the low-top model with regard to the origin of the BDC change is identified.

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Felix Bunzel and Hauke Schmidt
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Stergios Misios and Hauke Schmidt

Abstract

It is debated whether the response of the tropical Pacific Ocean to the 11-yr solar cycle forcing resembles a La Niña– or El Niño–like signal. To address this issue, ensemble simulations employing an atmospheric general circulation model with and without ocean coupling are conducted. The coupled simulations show no evidence for a La Niña–like cooling in solar maxima. Instead, the tropical sea surface temperature rises almost in phase with the 11-yr solar cycle. A basinwide warming of about 0.1 K is simulated in the tropical Pacific, whereas the warming in the tropical Indian and Atlantic Oceans is weaker. In the western Pacific, the region of deep convection shifts to the east, thus reducing the surface easterlies. This shift is independent of the ocean coupling because deep convection moves to the east in the uncoupled simulations too. The reduced surface easterlies cool the subsurface but warm the surface due to the reduction of heat transport divergence. The latter mechanism operates together with water vapor feedback, resulting in a stronger tropical Pacific warming relative to the warming over the tropical Indian and Atlantic Oceans. These results suggest that the atmospheric response to the 11-yr solar cycle drives the tropical Pacific response, which is amplified by atmosphere–ocean feedbacks operating on decadal time scales. Based on the coupled simulations, it is concluded that the tropical Pacific Ocean should warm when the sun is more active.

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Max Popp, Hauke Schmidt, and Jochem Marotzke

Abstract

A one-dimensional radiative–convective equilibrium model is used to investigate the influence of clouds on the onset of a runaway greenhouse under strong solar forcing. By comparing experiments with clear-sky conditions (clouds are transparent to radiation) to experiments with full-sky conditions (clouds are radiatively active), the authors find that the critical solar irradiance that is necessary to trigger a runaway greenhouse is increased from around 1.15–1.20 times the present-day total solar irradiance (TSI) on Earth S 0 for clear-sky conditions to around 1.40–1.45S 0 for full-sky conditions. Cloud thickness increases with TSI, leading to a substantially higher albedo, which in turn allows the climate to remain in equilibrium for markedly higher values of TSI. The results suggest that steady states with sea surface temperatures higher than 335 K exist for a large range of TSI. The thickening clouds in these states do not reduce the outgoing longwave radiation any more, implying that the thickening of clouds increases only their shortwave effect. This mechanism allows the column to remain in balance even at high sea surface temperatures. The authors find double equilibria for both clear-sky and full-sky conditions, but the range for which they occur extends to considerably higher values of TSIs for full-sky conditions. Moreover, when clouds are included in the radiative transfer calculations, climate instabilities are no longer caused by longwave effects but by the cloud albedo effect.

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Claudia Christine Stephan, Cornelia Strube, Daniel Klocke, Manfred Ern, Lars Hoffmann, Peter Preusse, and Hauke Schmidt

Abstract

Large uncertainties remain with respect to the representation of atmospheric gravity waves (GWs) in general circulation models (GCMs) with coarse grids. Insufficient parameterizations result from a lack of observational constraints on the parameters used in GW parameterizations as well as from physical inconsistencies between parameterizations and reality. For instance, parameterizations make oversimplifying assumptions about the generation and propagation of GWs. Increasing computational capabilities now allow GCMs to run at grid spacings that are sufficiently fine to resolve a major fraction of the GW spectrum. This study presents the first intercomparison of resolved GW pseudomomentum fluxes (GWMFs) in global convection-permitting simulations and those derived from satellite observations. Six simulations of three different GCMs are analyzed over the period of one month of August to assess the sensitivity of GWMF to model formulation and horizontal grid spacing. The simulations reproduce detailed observed features of the global GWMF distribution, which can be attributed to realistic GWs from convection, orography, and storm tracks. Yet the GWMF magnitudes differ substantially between simulations. Differences in the strength of convection may help explain differences in the GWMF between simulations of the same model in the summer low latitudes where convection is the primary source. Across models, there is no evidence for a systematic change with resolution. Instead, GWMF is strongly affected by model formulation. The results imply that validating the realism of simulated GWs across the entire resolved spectrum will remain a difficult challenge not least because of a lack of appropriate observational data.

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Lukas Kluft, Sally Dacie, Stefan A. Buehler, Hauke Schmidt, and Bjorn Stevens

Abstract

We revisit clear-sky one-dimensional radiative–convective equilibrium (1D-RCE) and determine its equilibrium climate sensitivity to a CO2 doubling (ECS) and associated uncertainty. Our 1D-RCE model, named konrad, uses the Rapid Radiative Transfer Model for GCMs (RRTMG) to calculate radiative fluxes in the same way as in comprehensive climate models. The simulated radiative feedbacks are verified by a line-by-line radiative transfer model, with which we also investigate their spectral distribution. Changing the model configuration of konrad enables a clear separation between the water vapor and the lapse rate feedbacks, as well as the interaction between the two. We find that the radiative feedback and ECS are sensitive to the chosen relative humidity profile, resulting in an ECS range of 2.09–2.40 K. Using larger CO2 forcings we find that the radiative feedback changes up to 10% for surface temperatures of 291–299 K. Although the ECS is similar to previous studies, it arises from the compensation of a larger clear-sky forcing (4.7 W m−2) and more strongly negative feedbacks (−2.3 W m−2 K−1). The lapse rate feedback and the feedback from the interaction of lapse rate and humidity compensate each other, but the degree of compensation depends on the relative humidity profile. Additionally, the temperature profile is investigated in a warming climate. The temperature change at the convective top is half as large as at the surface, consistent with the proportionally higher anvil temperature hypothesis, as long as the humidity is consistently coupled to the temperature profile.

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Christoph Zülicke, Erich Becker, Vivien Matthias, Dieter H. W. Peters, Hauke Schmidt, Han-Li Liu, Laura de la Torre Ramos, and Daniel M. Mitchell

Abstract

The vertical coupling between the stratosphere and the mesosphere is diagnosed from polar cap temperatures averaged over 60°–90°N with a new method: the joint occurrence of a warm stratosphere at 10 hPa and a cold mesosphere at 0.01 hPa. The investigation of an 11-yr-long dataset (2004–15) from Aura-MLS observations shows that such mesospheric coupling days appear in 7% of the winter. During major sudden stratospheric warming events mesospheric couplings are present with an enhanced average daily frequency of 22%. This daily frequency changes from event to event but broadly results in five of seven major warmings being classified as mesospheric couplings (2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2013). The observed fraction of mesospheric coupling events (71%) is compared with simulations of the Kühlungsborn Mechanistic Circulation Model (KMCM), the Hamburg Model of the Neutral and Ionized Atmosphere (HAMMONIA), and the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM). The simulated fraction of mesospheric coupling events ranges between 57% and 94%, which fits the observations. In searching for causal relations weak evidence is found that major warming events with strong intensity or split vortices favor their coupling with the upper mesosphere. More evidence is found with a conceptual model: an effective vertical coupling between 10 and 0.01 hPa is provided by deep zonal-mean easterlies at 60°N, which are acting as a gravity-wave guide. The explained variance is above 40% in the four datasets, which indicates a near-realistic simulation of this process.

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Sally Dacie, Lukas Kluft, Hauke Schmidt, Bjorn Stevens, Stefan A. Buehler, Peer J. Nowack, Simone Dietmüller, N. Luke Abraham, and Thomas Birner

Abstract

There are discrepancies between global climate models regarding the evolution of the tropical tropopause layer (TTL) and also whether changes in ozone impact the surface under climate change. We use a 1D clear-sky radiative–convective equilibrium model to determine how a variety of factors can affect the TTL and how they influence surface climate. We develop a new method of convective adjustment, which relaxes the temperature profile toward the moist adiabat and allows for cooling above the level of neutral buoyancy. The TTL temperatures in our model are sensitive to CO2 concentration, ozone profile, the method of convective adjustment, and the upwelling velocity, which is used to calculate a dynamical cooling rate in the stratosphere. Moreover, the temperature response of the TTL to changes in each of the above factors sometimes depends on the others. The surface temperature response to changes in ozone and upwelling at and above the TTL is also strongly amplified by both stratospheric and tropospheric water vapor changes. With all these influencing factors, it is not surprising that global models disagree with regard to TTL structure and evolution and the influence of ozone changes on surface temperatures. On the other hand, the effect of doubling CO2 on the surface, including just radiative, water vapor, and lapse-rate feedbacks, is relatively robust to changes in convection, upwelling, or the applied ozone profile.

Open access
Stephanie Fiedler, Traute Crueger, Roberta D’Agostino, Karsten Peters, Tobias Becker, David Leutwyler, Laura Paccini, Jörg Burdanowitz, Stefan A. Buehler, Alejandro Uribe Cortes, Thibaut Dauhut, Dietmar Dommenget, Klaus Fraedrich, Leonore Jungandreas, Nicola Maher, Ann Kristin Naumann, Maria Rugenstein, Mirjana Sakradzija, Hauke Schmidt, Frank Sielmann, Claudia Stephan, Claudia Timmreck, Xiuhua Zhu, and Bjorn Stevens

Abstract

The representation of tropical precipitation is evaluated across three generations of models participating in phases 3, 5, and 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP). Compared to state-of-the-art observations, improvements in tropical precipitation in the CMIP6 models are identified for some metrics, but we find no general improvement in tropical precipitation on different temporal and spatial scales. Our results indicate overall little changes across the CMIP phases for the summer monsoons, the double-ITCZ bias, and the diurnal cycle of tropical precipitation. We find a reduced amount of drizzle events in CMIP6, but tropical precipitation occurs still too frequently. Continuous improvements across the CMIP phases are identified for the number of consecutive dry days, for the representation of modes of variability, namely, the Madden–Julian oscillation and El Niño–Southern Oscillation, and for the trends in dry months in the twentieth century. The observed positive trend in extreme wet months is, however, not captured by any of the CMIP phases, which simulate negative trends for extremely wet months in the twentieth century. The regional biases are larger than a climate change signal one hopes to use the models to identify. Given the pace of climate change as compared to the pace of model improvements to simulate tropical precipitation, we question the past strategy of the development of the present class of global climate models as the mainstay of the scientific response to climate change. We suggest the exploration of alternative approaches such as high-resolution storm-resolving models that can offer better prospects to inform us about how tropical precipitation might change with anthropogenic warming.

Open access