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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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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.

Open access
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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Ying Dai
,
Peter Hitchcock
, and
Isla R. Simpson

Abstract

In this study, observations and simulations are used to investigate the mechanisms behind the different surface responses over the North Pacific and North Atlantic basins in response to sudden stratospheric warmings associated with a polar-night jet oscillation event (PJO SSWs). In reanalysis and a free-running preindustrial simulation, on average, a negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) response is seen, corresponding to an equatorward shift of the eddy-driven jet. This is considered as the canonical tropospheric response to PJO SSWs. In contrast, the response over the North Pacific is muted. This basin-asymmetric response is shaped by the North Pacific air–sea interactions spun up by the tropospheric precursor to PJO SSWs, which prevent the Pacific eddy-driven jet from responding to the downward influence from the stratosphere. To isolate the downward influence from the sudden warming itself from any preconditioning of the troposphere that may have occurred prior to the warming, a nudging technique is used by which a reference PJO SSW is artificially imposed in a 195-member ensemble spun off from a control simulation. The nudged ensembles show a more basin-symmetric negative Northern Annular Mode (NAM) response, in which the eddy-driven jet shifts equatorward in both the Pacific and Atlantic sectors. Monitoring the atmospheric and oceanic conditions in the North Pacific before and at the onset of PJO SSWs may be useful for forecasting whether a basin-asymmetric negative NAO or basin-symmetric negative NAM response is more likely to emerge. This can be further used to improve subseasonal-to-seasonal predictions of weather and climate.

Significance Statement

Stratospheric sudden warming events (SSWs) occur when the eastward winds usually found above the Arctic in the winter spontaneously and rapidly reverse. Following their occurrence, the Northern Hemisphere surface westerlies move southward, sometimes over both the North Atlantic and North Pacific and other times over the North Atlantic only. We therefore wanted to understand this uncertainty in the North Pacific surface westerlies response. We find that the North Pacific surface westerlies response to SSWs can be muted by air–sea interactions over the North Pacific. Our results highlight the importance of monitoring the atmospheric and oceanic conditions in the North Pacific before the occurrence of SSWs to forecast whether the Pacific westerlies are likely to respond to SSWs.

Free access
Ying Dai
,
Peter Hitchcock
, and
Isla R. Simpson

Abstract

This study evaluates the representation of the composite-mean surface response to sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs) in 28 CMIP6 models. Most models can reproduce the magnitude of the SLP response over the Arctic, although the simulated Arctic SLP response varies from model to model. Regarding the structure of the SLP response, most models exhibit a basin-symmetric negative Northern Annular Mode (NAM)-like response with a cyclonic Pacific SLP response, whereas the reanalysis shows a highly basin-asymmetric negative NAO-like response without a robust Pacific center. We then explore the drivers of these model biases and spread by applying a multiple linear regression (MLR). The results show that the polar cap temperature anomalies at 100 hPa (ΔT 100) modulate the magnitude of both the Arctic SLP response and the cyclonic Pacific SLP response. Apart from ΔT 100, the intensity and latitudinal location of the climatological eddy-driven jet in the troposphere also affect the magnitude of the Arctic SLP response. The compensation of model biases in these two tropospheric metrics and the good model representation of ΔT 100 explain the good agreement between the ensemble mean and the reanalysis on the magnitude of the Arctic SLP response, as indicated by the fact that the ensemble mean lies well within the reanalysis uncertainty range and that the reanalysis mean sits well within the model distribution. The Niño-3.4 SST anomalies and North Pacific SST dipole anomalies together with ΔT 100 modulate the cyclonic Pacific SLP response. In this case, biases in both oceanic drivers work in the same direction and lead to the cyclonic Pacific SLP response in models that are not present in the reanalysis.

Significance Statement

Sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs) represent an important source of skill for forecasting winter weather on subseasonal-to-seasonal time scales. To what extent SSWs could be used to improve the prediction of surface weather depends on how well stratosphere–troposphere coupling associated with SSWs is represented in climate models. Therefore, we evaluate the representation of stratosphere–troposphere coupling associated with SSWs in 28 state-of-the-art climate models. The representation is found to diverge widely among climate models, and some are biased noticeably from the reanalysis. The models’ spread and bias are largely driven by five major factors and can be reduced substantially by making bias corrections to these factors.

Restricted access
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.

Full access
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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Ruyan Chen
,
Isla R. Simpson
,
Clara Deser
,
Bin Wang
, and
Yan Du

Abstract

Previous studies have shown that models overestimate the strength of ENSO teleconnections to the North Pacific during springtime, but the underlying reasons for this bias remain unknown. In this work, the relative contributions from basic-state and thermodynamic/dynamic forcing factors are disentangled through idealized experiments with the Community Earth System Model and a range of stationary wave modeling experiments. It is revealed that in CESM1 the diabatic heating biases over the tropical Indian Ocean and tropical central-western Pacific jointly favor a cyclonic (anticyclonic) circulation bias to occur in the North Pacific during the springtime of El Niño (La Niña) events. On one hand, the difference in the modeled and observed climatological basic state does not lead to the bias formation directly, as the diabatic heating biases are the primary cause. On the other hand, the springtime basic state is conducive to a more vigorous stationary wave response to the biased diabatic heating than the wintertime state, and this explains why the teleconnection bias occurs during springtime but not in winter. An iterative bias-correction approach is then implemented in the atmospheric model component of CESM1 to verify the linkage between the tropical diabatic heating bias and the teleconnection bias. Moreover, this explanation is shown to be relevant in other models of phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) as a strong relationship is found between biases in ENSO-related tropical central-western Pacific/Indian Ocean precipitation and North Pacific circulation across models in spring.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this study is to explain why climate models tend to overestimate the springtime ENSO teleconnection to the North Pacific. Through both simplified and comprehensive model experiments, we found that the diabatic heating biases over the tropical Indian Ocean and central-western Pacific basins are the main cause behind the circulation bias. Although similar heating biases also occur in winter, the spring mean climate state is more sensitive to the biased heating than the winter mean state. These findings are useful for developing future climate models that would better simulate the springtime climate response during the ENSO events, as the same problem can be found in many other models.

Free access
Russell L. Horowitz
,
Karen A. McKinnon
, and
Isla R. Simpson

Abstract

Extreme heat events are a threat to human health, productivity, and food supply, so understanding their drivers is critical to adaptation and resilience. Anticyclonic circulation and certain quasi-stationary Rossby wave patterns are well known to coincide with heatwaves, and soil moisture deficits amplify extreme heat in some regions. However, the relative roles of these two factors in causing heatwaves is still unclear. Here we use constructed circulation analogs to estimate the contribution of atmospheric circulation to heatwaves in the United States in the Community Earth System Model version 1 (CESM1) preindustrial control simulations. After accounting for the component of the heatwaves explained by circulation, we explore the relationship between the residual temperature anomalies and soil moisture. We find that circulation explains over 85% of heatwave temperature anomalies in the eastern and western United States but only 75%–85% in the central United States. In this region, there is a significant negative correlation between soil moisture the week before the heatwave and the strength of the heatwave that explains additional variance. Further, for the hottest central U.S. heatwaves, positive temperature anomalies and negative soil moisture anomalies are evident over a month before heatwave onset. These results provide evidence that positive land–atmosphere feedbacks may be amplifying heatwaves in the central United States and demonstrate the geographic heterogeneity in the relative importance of the land and atmosphere for heatwave development. Analysis of future circulation and soil moisture in the CESM1 Large Ensemble indicates that, over parts of the United States, both may be trending toward greater heatwave likelihood.

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