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Peter Hitchcock and Isla R. Simpson

Abstract

The coupling between the stratosphere and the troposphere following two major stratospheric sudden warmings is studied in the Canadian Middle Atmosphere Model using a nudging technique by which the zonal-mean evolution of the reference sudden warmings are artificially induced in an ~100-member ensemble spun off from a control simulation. Both reference warmings are taken from a freely running integration of the model. One event is a displacement, the other is a split, and both are followed by extended recoveries in the lower stratosphere. The methodology permits a statistically robust study of their influence on the troposphere below.

The nudged ensembles exhibit a tropospheric annular mode response closely analogous to that seen in observations, confirming the downward influence of sudden warmings on the troposphere in a comprehensive model. This tropospheric response coincides more closely with the lower-stratospheric annular mode anomalies than with the midstratospheric wind reversal. In addition to the expected synoptic-scale eddy feedback, the planetary-scale eddies also reinforce the tropospheric wind changes, apparently responding directly to the stratospheric anomalies.

Furthermore, despite the zonal symmetry of the stratospheric perturbation, a highly zonally asymmetric near-surface response is produced, corresponding to a strongly negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation with a much weaker response over the Pacific basin that matches composites of sudden warmings from the Interim ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim). Phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project models exhibit a similar response, though in most models the response’s magnitude is underrepresented.

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Peter Hitchcock and Isla R. Simpson

Abstract

The equatorward shift of the zonal-mean midlatitude tropospheric jet following a stratospheric sudden warming in a comprehensive stratosphere-resolving model is found to be well quantified by the simple model of tropospheric eddy feedbacks proposed by Lorenz and Hartmann. This permits a decomposition of the shift into a component driven by the stratospheric anomalies and a component driven by tropospheric feedbacks.

This is done by extending the simple model to include three effective forcing mechanisms by which the stratosphere may influence the tropospheric jet. These include 1) the zonally symmetric adjustments associated with the mean meridional circulation and the direct influence of the stratospheric anomalies on 2) the tropospheric synoptic-scale or 3) the tropospheric planetary-scale eddies. Although the anomalous tropospheric winds are primarily maintained against surface friction by the synoptic-scale eddies, this response can be entirely attributed to the eddy feedback term. The response of the planetary-scale eddies, in contrast, can be directly attributed to the stratosphere. The zonally symmetric tropospheric circulation associated with downward control is found to play little role in driving the tropospheric response.

The prospects of applying this methodology to reanalysis data are also considered, but statistical limitations and the relatively weak projection of the vertically integrated composite wind anomalies onto the leading EOF preclude any conclusions from being drawn.

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Elizabeth A. Barnes and Isla R. Simpson

Abstract

Near-surface Arctic warming has been shown to impact the midlatitude jet streams through the use of carefully designed model simulations with and without Arctic sea ice loss. In this work, a Granger causality regression approach is taken to quantify the response of the zonal wind to variability of near-surface Arctic temperatures on subseasonal time scales across the CMIP5 models. Using this technique, a robust influence of regional Arctic warming on the North Atlantic and North Pacific jet stream positions, speeds, and zonal winds is demonstrated. However, Arctic temperatures only explain an additional 3%–5% of the variance of the winds after accounting for the variance associated with the persistence of the wind anomalies from previous weeks. In terms of the jet stream response, the North Pacific and North Atlantic jet streams consistently shift equatorward in response to Arctic warming but also strengthen, rather than weaken, during most months of the year. Furthermore, the sensitivity of the jet stream position and strength to Arctic warming is shown to be a strong function of season. Specifically, in both ocean basins, the jets shift farthest equatorward in the summer months. It is argued that this seasonal sensitivity is due to the Arctic-warming-induced wind anomalies remaining relatively fixed in latitude, while the climatological jet migrates in and out of the anomalies throughout the annual cycle. Based on these results, model differences in the climatological jet stream position are shown to lead to differences in the jet stream position’s sensitivity to Arctic warming.

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Isla R. Simpson, Michael Blackburn, and Joanna D. Haigh

Abstract

A simplified general circulation model has been used to investigate the chain of causality whereby changes in tropospheric circulation and temperature are produced in response to stratospheric heating perturbations. Spinup ensemble experiments have been performed to examine the evolution of the tropospheric circulation in response to such perturbations.

The primary aim of these experiments is to investigate the possible mechanisms whereby a tropospheric response to changing solar activity over the 11-yr solar cycle could be produced in response to heating of the equatorial lower stratosphere. This study therefore focuses on a stratospheric heating perturbation in which the heating is largest in the tropics. For comparison, experiments are also performed in which the stratosphere is heated uniformly at all latitudes and in which it is heated preferentially in the polar region. Thus, the mechanisms discussed have a wider relevance for the impact of stratospheric perturbations on the troposphere.

The results demonstrate the importance of changing eddy momentum fluxes in driving the tropospheric response. This is confirmed by the lack of a similar response in a zonally symmetric model with fixed eddy forcing. Furthermore, it is apparent that feedback between the tropospheric eddy fluxes and tropospheric circulation changes is required to produce the full model response. The quasigeostrophic index of refraction is used to diagnose the cause of the changes in eddy behavior. It is demonstrated that the latitudinal extent of stratospheric heating is important in determining the direction of displacement of the tropospheric jet and storm track.

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Isla R. Simpson, Theodore G. Shepherd, and Michael Sigmond

Abstract

A robust feature of the observed response to El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is an altered circulation in the lower stratosphere. When sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical Pacific are warmer there is enhanced upwelling and cooling in the tropical lower stratosphere and downwelling and warming in the midlatitudes, while the opposite is true of cooler SSTs. The midlatitude lower stratospheric response to ENSO is larger in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) than in the Northern Hemisphere (NH).

In this study the dynamical version of the Canadian Middle Atmosphere Model (CMAM) is used to simulate 25 realizations of the atmospheric response to the 1982/83 El Niño and the 1973/74 La Niña. This version of CMAM is a comprehensive high-top general circulation model that does not include interactive chemistry. The observed lower stratospheric response to ENSO is well reproduced by the simulations, allowing them to be used to investigate the mechanisms involved. Both the observed and simulated responses maximize in December–March and so this study focuses on understanding the mechanisms involved in that season.

The response in tropical upwelling is predominantly driven by anomalous transient synoptic-scale wave drag in the SH subtropical lower stratosphere, which is also responsible for the compensating SH midlatitude response. This altered wave drag stems from an altered upward flux of wave activity from the troposphere into the lower stratosphere between 20° and 40°S. The altered flux of wave activity can be divided into two distinct components. In the Pacific, the acceleration of the zonal wind in the subtropics from the warmer tropical SSTs results in a region between the midlatitude and subtropical jets where there is an enhanced source of low phase speed eddies. At other longitudes, an equatorward shift of the midlatitude jet from the extratropical tropospheric response to El Niño results in an enhanced source of waves of higher phase speeds in the subtropics. The altered resolved wave drag is only apparent in the SH and the difference between the two hemispheres can be related to the difference in the climatological jet structures in this season and the projection of the wind anomalies associated with ENSO onto those structures.

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Isla R. Simpson, Tiffany A. Shaw, and Richard Seager

Abstract

Zonal-mean or basin-mean analyses often conclude that the midlatitude circulation will undergo a poleward shift with global warming. In this study, the models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project are used to provide a detailed examination of midlatitude circulation change as a function of longitude and season. The two-dimensional vertically integrated momentum budget is used to identify the dominant terms that maintain the anomalous surface wind stress, thereby allowing a distinction between features that are maintained by high-frequency eddies and those that involve changes in the lower-frequency or stationary flow.

In the zonal mean, in each season and hemisphere there is a poleward shifting of the midlatitude surface wind stress, primarily maintained by high-frequency transient eddies. This is not necessarily the case locally. In the Southern Hemisphere, for the most part, the interpretation of the response as being a high-frequency eddy-driven poleward shifting of the midlatitude westerlies holds true. The Northern Hemisphere is considerably more complex with only the fall months showing a robust poleward shift of both the Atlantic and Pacific jets. During the winter months the jet in the east Pacific actually shifts equatorward and the Atlantic jet strengthens over Europe. An important role for altered climatological stationary waves in these responses is found. This motivates future work that should focus on zonal asymmetries and stationary wave changes, as well as the changes in high-frequency transients that bring about the poleward shifting of the westerlies in the zonal mean.

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Isla R. Simpson, Michael Blackburn, and Joanna D. Haigh

Abstract

For many climate forcings the dominant response of the extratropical circulation is a latitudinal shift of the tropospheric midlatitude jets. The magnitude of this response appears to depend on climatological jet latitude in general circulation models (GCMs): lower-latitude jets exhibit a larger shift.

The reason for this latitude dependence is investigated for a particular forcing, heating of the equatorial stratosphere, which shifts the jet poleward. Spinup ensembles with a simplified GCM are used to examine the evolution of the response for five different jet structures. These differ in the latitude of the eddy-driven jet but have similar subtropical zonal winds. It is found that lower-latitude jets exhibit a larger response due to stronger tropospheric eddy–mean flow feedbacks.

A dominant feedback responsible for enhancing the poleward shift is an enhanced equatorward refraction of the eddies, resulting in an increased momentum flux, poleward of the low-latitude critical line. The sensitivity of feedback strength to jet structure is associated with differences in the coherence of this behavior across the spectrum of eddy phase speeds. In the configurations used, the higher-latitude jets have a wider range of critical latitude locations. This reduces the coherence of the momentum flux anomalies associated with different phase speeds, with low phase speeds opposing the effect of high phase speeds. This suggests that, for a given subtropical zonal wind strength, the latitude of the eddy-driven jet affects the feedback through its influence on the width of the region of westerly winds and the range of critical latitudes on the equatorward flank of the jet.

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Ruyan Chen, Isla R. Simpson, Clara Deser, and Bin Wang

Abstract

The wintertime ENSO teleconnection over the North Pacific region consists of an intensified (weakened) low pressure center during El Niño (La Niña) events both in observations and in climate models. Here, it is demonstrated that this teleconnection persists too strongly into late winter and spring in the Community Earth System Model (CESM). This discrepancy arises in both fully coupled and atmosphere-only configurations, when observed SSTs are specified, and is shown to be robust when accounting for the sampling uncertainty due to internal variability. Furthermore, a similar problem is found in many other models from piControl simulations of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (23 out of 43 in phase 5 and 11 out of 20 in phase 6). The implications of this bias for the simulation of surface climate anomalies over North America are assessed. The overall effect on the ENSO composite field (El Niño minus La Niña) resembles an overly prolonged influence of ENSO into the spring with anomalously high temperatures over Alaska and western Canada, and wet (dry) biases over California (southwest Canada). Further studies are still needed to disentangle the relative roles played by diabatic heating, background flow, and other possible contributions in determining the overly strong springtime ENSO teleconnection intensity over the North Pacific.

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Isla R. Simpson, Richard Seager, Tiffany A. Shaw, and Mingfang Ting

Abstract

In summer, the atmospheric circulation over the Mediterranean is characterized by localized intense subsidence and low-level northerlies over the central to eastern portion of the basin. Here, simulations with the Community Atmosphere Model, version 5 are used to investigate the influence of the elevated terrain of North Africa and the Middle East on this summertime circulation. This builds on previous work that recognized a role for North African topography in localizing the Mediterranean subsidence.

By flattening the two regions of elevated terrain in the model, it is demonstrated that, while they both conspire to produce about 30% of the summertime subsidence, contrary to previous work, the mountains of the Middle East dominate in this topographic contribution by far. This topography, consisting primarily of the Zagros mountain range, alters the circulation throughout the depth of the troposphere over the Mediterranean and farther east. The model results suggest that about 20% of the Mediterranean summertime moisture deficit can be attributed to this mountain-induced circulation. This topography, therefore, plays an important role in the climate of the Mediterranean and the large-scale circulation over the rest of Eurasia during the summer.

Further stationary wave modeling reveals that the mountain influence is produced via mechanical forcing of the flow. The greatest influence of the topography occurs when the low-level incident flow is easterly, as happens during the summer, primarily because of the presence of condensational heating over Asia. During other seasons, when the low-level incident flow is westerly, the influence of Middle East topography on the Mediterranean is negligible.

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Clara Deser, Isla R. Simpson, Karen A. McKinnon, and Adam. S. Phillips
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