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Jian Lu and Bin Zhao

Abstract

Two suites of partial coupling experiments are devised with the upper-ocean dynamics version (UOM) of the CCSM3 to isolate the effects of the feedbacks from the change of the wind-driven ocean circulation and air–sea heat flux in the global climate response to the forcing of doubling CO2. The partial coupling is achieved by implementing a so-called overriding technique, which helps quantitatively partition the total response in the fully coupled model to the feedback component in question and the response to external forcing in the absence of the former. By overriding the wind stress seen by the ocean and the wind speed through the bulk formula for evaporation, the experiments help to reveal that (i) the wind–evaporation–SST (WES) feedback is the main formation mechanism for the tropical SST pattern under the CO2 forcing, verifying the hypothesis proposed by Xie et al.; (ii) the weakened tropical Pacific wind is shown in this UOM model not to be the cause for the enhanced equatorial Pacific warming, as one might expect from the thermocline and Bjerknes feedbacks; (iii) WES is also the leading mechanism for shaping the tropical precipitation response in the ocean; and (iv) both the wind-driven ocean dynamical feedback and the WES feedback act to increase the persistence of the southern annular mode (SAM) and the increased time scale of the SAM due to these feedbacks manifests itself in the response of the jet shift to an identical CO2 forcing, in a manner conforming to the fluctuation–dissipation theorem.

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Richard J. Greatbatch and Jian Lu

Abstract

In the Stommel box model, the strength of the overturning circulation is parameterized in terms of the density (and hence the pressure) difference between the two boxes. Straub has pointed out that this parameterization is not consistent with the Stommel–Arons model for the abyssal circulation. In particular, the zonally averaged density field implied by the Stommel–Arons model is unrelated to the strength or the direction of the meridional overturning circulation. Here, the inconsistency is examined using the abyssal circulation model of Kawase and a variant to include the effect of Southern Hemisphere wind forcing. The important parameter is R, the ratio of two timescales: the timescale for a perturbation to the density field to propagate, by either wave or advective processes, from a high-latitude source to the equator and the timescale for the dissipation of a perturbation to the density field by diapycnal mixing. If the model is forced only by a deep water source in the northern basin, it is found that the model behaves like the Stommel–Arons model when R ≪ 1 (the “weak” damping regime) and like the Stommel box model when R ≫ 1 (the “strong” damping regine). Estimates of R suggest that coarse-resolution models generally reside in or near the Stommel box model regime (R ≫ 1), which is probably why these models generally support the Stommel box model hypothesis and corroborate the momentum-based closure used in zonally averaged models. On the other hand, it is not clear that the real world is also in the strong damping regime. Indeed, it is easy to obtain estimates for R, using realistic parameter values, that sit in the weak damping regime. It is shown that, even in the weak damping regime (R ≪ 1), adding forcing by the Southern Hemisphere circumpolar westerlies generally moves the model into the Stommel box model regime. It therefore is concluded that, at least in the context of the Kawase model, the inconsistency noted by Straub can be removed by including the effect of Southern Hemisphere wind forcing and that the Stommel box model approach probably has wider applicability than is suggested by estimates of R alone.

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Richard J. Greatbatch and Jian Lu

Abstract

In the Stommel box model, the strength of the overturning circulation is parameterized in terms of the density (and hence the pressure) difference between the two boxes. Straub has pointed out that this parameterization is not consistent with the Stommel–Arons model for the abyssal circulation. In particular, the zonally averaged density field implied by the Stommel–Arons model is unrelated to the strength or the direction of the meridional overturning circulation. Here, the inconsistency is examined using the abyssal circulation model of Kawase and a variant to include the effect of Southern Hemisphere wind forcing. The important parameter is R, the ratio of two timescales: the timescale for a perturbation to the density field to propagate, by either wave or advective processes, from a high-latitude source to the equator and the timescale for the dissipation of a perturbation to the density field by diapycnal mixing. If the model is forced only by a deep water source in the northern basin, it is found that the model behaves like the Stommel–Arons model when R ≪ 1 (the “weak” damping regime) and like the Stommel box model when R ≫ 1 (the “strong” damping regine). Estimates of R suggest that coarse-resolution models generally reside in or near the Stommel box model regime (R ≫ 1), which is probably why these models generally support the Stommel box model hypothesis and corroborate the momentum-based closure used in zonally averaged models. On the other hand, it is not clear that the real world is also in the strong damping regime. Indeed, it is easy to obtain estimates for R, using realistic parameter values, that sit in the weak damping regime. It is shown that, even in the weak damping regime (R ≪ 1), adding forcing by the Southern Hemisphere circumpolar westerlies generally moves the model into the Stommel box model regime. It therefore is concluded that, at least in the context of the Kawase model, the inconsistency noted by Straub can be removed by including the effect of Southern Hemisphere wind forcing and that the Stommel box model approach probably has wider applicability than is suggested by estimates of R alone.

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Sarah M. Kang and Jian Lu

Abstract

A scaling relationship is introduced to explain the seasonality in the outer boundary of the Hadley cell in both climatology and trend in the simulations of phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3). In the climatological state, the summer cell reaches higher latitudes than the winter cell since the Hadley cell in summer deviates more from the angular momentum conserving state, resulting in weaker upper-level zonal winds, which enables the Hadley cell to extend farther poleward before becoming baroclinically unstable. The Hadley cell can also reach farther poleward as the ITCZ gets farther away from the equator; hence, the Hadley cell extends farther poleward in solstices than in equinoxes. In terms of trend, a robust poleward expansion of the Hadley cell is diagnosed in all seasons with global warming. The scaling analysis indicates this is mostly due to an increase in the subtropical static stability, which pushes poleward the baroclinically unstable zone and hence the poleward edge of the Hadley cell. The relation between the trends in the Hadley cell edge and the ITCZ is also discussed.

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Lu Dong, L. Ruby Leung, Jian Lu, and Fengfei Song

Abstract

The mean precipitation along the U.S. West Coast exhibits a pronounced seasonality change under warming. Here we explore the characteristics of the seasonality change and investigate the underlying mechanisms, with a focus on quantifying the roles of moisture (thermodynamic) versus circulation (dynamic). The multimodel simulations from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) show a simple “wet-get-wetter” response over Washington and Oregon but a sharpened seasonal cycle marked by a stronger and narrower wet season over California. Moisture budget analysis shows that changes in both regions are predominantly caused by changes in the mean moisture convergence. The thermodynamic effect due to the mass convergence of increased moisture dominates the wet-get-wetter response over Washington and Oregon. In contrast, mean zonal moisture advection due to seasonally dependent changes in land–sea moisture contrast originating from the nonlinear Clausius–Clapeyron relation dominates the sharpened wet season over California. More specifically, the stronger climatological land–sea thermal contrast in winter with warmer ocean than land results in more moisture increase over ocean than land under warming and hence wet advection to California. However, in fall and spring, the future change of land–sea thermal contrast with larger warming over land than ocean induces an opposite moisture gradient and hence dry advection to California. These results have important implications for projecting changes in the hydrological cycle of the U.S. West Coast.

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Lu Dong, L. Ruby Leung, Fengfei Song, and Jian Lu

Abstract

The U.S. West Coast exhibits large variability of extreme precipitation during the boreal winter season (December–February). Understanding the large-scale forcing of such variability is important for improving prediction. This motivates analyses of the roles of sea surface temperature (SST) forcing and internal atmospheric variability on extreme precipitation on the U.S. West Coast. Observations, reanalysis products, and an ensemble of Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) experiments from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) are analyzed. It is found that SST forcing only accounts for about 20% of the variance of both extreme and nonextreme precipitation in winter. Under SST forcing, extreme precipitation is associated with the Pacific–North American teleconnection, while nonextreme precipitation is associated with the North Pacific Oscillation. The remaining 80% of extreme precipitation variations can be explained by internal atmospheric dynamics featuring a circumglobal wave train with a cyclonic circulation located over the U.S. West Coast. The circumglobal teleconnection manifests from the mid- to high-latitude intrinsic variability, but it can also emanate from anomalous convection over the tropical western Pacific, with stronger tropical convection over the Maritime Continent setting the stage for more extreme precipitation in winter. Whether forced by SST or internal atmospheric dynamics, atmospheric rivers are a common and indispensable feature of the large-scale environment that produces concomitant extreme precipitation along the U.S. West Coast.

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Lantao Sun, Gang Chen, and Jian Lu

Abstract

Although El Niño and global warming are both characterized by warming in the tropical upper troposphere, the latitudinal changes of the Hadley cell edge and midlatitude eddy-driven jet are opposite in sign. Using an idealized dry atmospheric model, the zonal mean circulation changes are investigated with respect to different patterns of tropical warming. Generally speaking, an equatorward shift in circulation takes place in the presence of enhanced tropical temperature gradient or narrow tropical warming, similar to the changes associated with El Niño events. In contrast, the zonal mean atmospheric circulations expand or shift poleward in response to upper-tropospheric warming or broad tropical warming, resembling the changes under future global warming.

The mechanisms underlying these opposite changes in circulation are investigated by comparing the dry dynamical responses to a narrow tropical warming and a broad warming as analogs for El Niño and global warming. When running the idealized model in a zonally symmetric configuration in which the eddy feedback is disabled, both the narrow and broad warmings give rise to an equatorward shift of the subtropical jet. The eddy adjustment is further examined using large ensembles of transient response to a sudden switch-on of the forcing. For both narrow and broad tropical warmings, the jets move equatorward initially. In the subsequent adjustment, the initial equatorward shift is further enhanced and sustained by the low-level baroclinicity under the narrow tropical warming, whereas the initial equatorward shift transitions to a poleward shift associated with altered irreversible mixing of potential vorticity in the upper troposphere in the case of broad warming.

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Abraham Solomon, Gang Chen, and Jian Lu

Abstract

Lagrangian-mean wave activity diagnostics are applied to the nonlinear baroclinic eddy life cycle in a simple general circulation model of the atmosphere. The growth of these instabilities through baroclinic conversion of potential temperature gradients and their subsequent barotropic decay can exhibit two distinct life cycles. One life cycle results in equatorward propagation of the growing eddy, anticyclonic wave breaking, and a poleward shift of the mean jet. The second life cycle is distinguished by limited equatorward propagation and cyclonic wave breaking on the poleward flank of the jet. Using a conservative finite-amplitude, Lagrangian-mean wave activity (negative pseudomomentum) to quantify wave growth and propagation reveals more details about the life cycles than could be discerned from eddy kinetic energy (EKE) or other Eulerian metrics. It is shown that the distribution of pseudomomentum relative to the latitude of the axis of the jet can be used to provide a clear distinction between the two life cycles at an early stage in their development and, hence, a prediction for the subsequent shift of the jet. This suggests that the distribution of pseudomomentum may provide some predictability for the atmospheric annular modes.

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Yang Gao, Jian Lu, and L. Ruby Leung

Abstract

This study investigates the North Atlantic atmospheric rivers (ARs) making landfall over western Europe in the present and future climate from the multimodel ensemble of phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). Overall, CMIP5 captures the seasonal and spatial variations of historical landfalling AR days, with the large intermodel variability strongly correlated with the intermodel spread of historical near-surface westerly jet position. Under representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5), AR frequency is projected to increase significantly by the end of this century, with 127%–275% increase at peak AR frequency regions (45°–55°N). While thermodynamics plays a dominant role in the future increase of ARs, wind changes associated with the midlatitude jet shifts also significantly contribute to AR changes, resulting in dipole change patterns in all seasons. In the North Atlantic, the model-projected jet shifts are strongly correlated with the simulated historical jet position. As models exhibit predominantly equatorward biases in the historical jet position, the large poleward jet shifts reduce AR days south of the historical mean jet position through the dynamical connections between the jet positions and AR days. Using the observed historical jet position as an emergent constraint, dynamical effects further increase future AR days over the equatorward flank above the increases from thermodynamical effects. Compared to the present, both total and extreme precipitation induced by ARs in the future contribute more to the seasonal mean and extreme precipitation, primarily because of the increase in AR frequency. While AR precipitation intensity generally increases more relative to the increase in integrated vapor transport, AR extreme precipitation intensity increases much less.

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Gang Chen, Jian Lu, and Lantao Sun

Abstract

The mechanisms of the atmospheric response to climate forcing are analyzed using an example of uniform SST warming in an idealized aquaplanet model. A 200-member ensemble of experiments is conducted with an instantaneous uniform SST warming. The zonal mean circulation changes display a rapid poleward shift in the midlatitude eddy-driven westerlies and the edge of the Hadley cell circulation and a slow equatorward contraction of the circulation in the deep tropics. The shift of the poleward edge of the Hadley cell is predominantly controlled by the eddy momentum flux. It also shifts the eddy-driven westerlies against the surface friction, at a rate much faster than the expectation from the natural variability of the eddy-driven jet (i.e., the e-folding time scale of the annular mode), with much less feedback between the eddies and zonal flow.

The transient eddy–zonal flow interactions are delineated using a newly developed finite-amplitude wave activity diagnostic of Nakamura. Applying it to the transient ensemble response to uniform SST warming reveals that the eddy-driven westerlies are shifted poleward by permitting more upward wave propagation in the middle and upper troposphere rather than reducing the lower-tropospheric baroclinicity. The increased upward wave propagation is attributed to a reduction in eddy dissipation of wave activity as a result of a weaker meridional potential vorticity (PV) gradient. The reduction allows more waves to propagate away from the latitudes of baroclinic generation, which, in turn, leads to more poleward momentum flux and a poleward shift of eddy-driven winds and Hadley cell edge.

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