Search Results

You are looking at 1 - 9 of 9 items for

  • Author or Editor: Karen A. McKinnon x
  • All content x
Clear All Modify Search
Karen A. McKinnon and Clara Deser

Abstract

Recent observed climate trends result from a combination of external radiative forcing and internally generated variability. To better contextualize these trends and forecast future ones, it is necessary to properly model the spatiotemporal properties of the internal variability. Here, a statistical model is developed for terrestrial temperature and precipitation, and global sea level pressure, based upon monthly gridded observational datasets that span 1921–2014. The model is used to generate a synthetic ensemble, each member of which has a unique sequence of internal variability but with statistical properties similar to the observational record. This synthetic ensemble is combined with estimates of the externally forced response from climate models to produce an observational large ensemble (OBS-LE). The 1000 members of the OBS-LE display considerable diversity in their 50-yr regional climate trends, indicative of the importance of internal variability on multidecadal time scales. For example, unforced atmospheric circulation trends associated with the northern annular mode can induce winter temperature trends over Eurasia that are comparable in magnitude to the forced trend over the past 50 years. Similarly, the contribution of internal variability to winter precipitation trends is large across most of the globe, leading to substantial regional uncertainties in the amplitude and, in some cases, the sign of the 50-yr trend. The OBS-LE provides a real-world counterpart to initial-condition model ensembles. The approach could be expanded to using paleo-proxy data to simulate longer-term variability.

Full access
Andrew Poppick and Karen A. McKinnon

Abstract

The human impacts of changes in heat events depend on changes in the joint behavior of temperature and humidity. Little is currently known about these complex joint changes, either in observations or projections from general circulation models (GCMs). Further, GCMs do not fully reproduce the observed joint distribution, implying a need for simulation methods that combine information from GCMs with observations for use in impact studies. We present an observation-based, conditional quantile mapping approach for the simulation of future temperature and humidity. A temperature simulation is first produced by transforming historical temperature observations to include projected changes in the mean and temporal covariance structure from a GCM. Next, a humidity simulation is produced by transforming humidity observations to account for projected changes in the conditional humidity distribution given temperature, using a quantile regression model. We use the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble (CESM1-LE) to estimate future changes in summertime (June–August) temperature and humidity over the continental United States (CONUS), and then use the proposed method to create future simulations of temperature and humidity at stations in the Global Summary of the Day dataset. We find that CESM1-LE projects decreases in summertime humidity across CONUS for a given deviation in temperature from the forced trend, but increases in the risk of high dewpoint on historically hot days. In comparison with raw CESM1-LE output, our observation-based simulation largely projects smaller changes in the future risk of either high or low humidity on days with historically warm temperatures.

Restricted access
Karen A. McKinnon, Alexander R. Stine, and Peter Huybers

Abstract

The climatological annual cycle in surface air temperature, defined by its amplitude and phase lag with respect to solar insolation, is one of the most familiar aspects of the climate system. Here, the authors identify three first-order features of the spatial structure of amplitude and phase lag and explain them using simple physical models. Amplitude and phase lag 1) are broadly consistent with a land and ocean end-member mixing model but 2) exhibit overlap between land and ocean and, despite this overlap, 3) show a systematically greater lag over ocean than land for a given amplitude. Based on previous work diagnosing relative ocean or land influence as an important control on the extratropical annual cycle, the authors use a Lagrangian trajectory model to quantify this influence as the weighted amount of time that an ensemble of air parcels has spent over ocean or land. This quantity explains 84% of the space–time variance in the extratropical annual cycle, as well as features 1 and 2. All three features can be explained using a simple energy balance model with land and ocean surfaces and an advecting atmosphere. This model explains 94% of the space–time variance of the annual cycle in an illustrative midlatitude zonal band when incorporating the results of the trajectory model. The aforementioned features of annual variability in surface air temperature thus appear to be explained by the coupling of land and ocean through mean atmospheric circulation.

Full access
Karen A. McKinnon, Andrew Poppick, Etienne Dunn-Sigouin, and Clara Deser

Abstract

Estimates of the climate response to anthropogenic forcing contain irreducible uncertainty due to the presence of internal variability. Accurate quantification of this uncertainty is critical for both contextualizing historical trends and determining the spread of climate projections. The contribution of internal variability to uncertainty in trends can be estimated in models as the spread across an initial condition ensemble. However, internal variability simulated by a model may be inconsistent with observations due to model biases. Here, statistical resampling methods are applied to observations in order to quantify uncertainty in historical 50-yr (1966–2015) winter near-surface air temperature trends over North America related to incomplete sampling of internal variability. This estimate is compared with the simulated trend uncertainty in the NCAR CESM1 Large Ensemble (LENS). The comparison suggests that uncertainty in trends due to internal variability is largely overestimated in LENS, which has an average amplification of variability of 32% across North America. The amplification of variability is greatest in the western United States and Alaska. The observationally derived estimate of trend uncertainty is combined with the forced signal from LENS to produce an “Observational Large Ensemble” (OLENS). The members of OLENS indicate the range of observationally constrained, spatially consistent temperature trends that could have been observed over the past 50 years if a different sequence of internal variability had unfolded. The smaller trend uncertainty in OLENS suggests that is easier to detect the historical climate change signal in observations than in any given member of LENS.

Full access
Andrew Rhines, Karen A. McKinnon, Martin P. Tingley, and Peter Huybers

Abstract

There is considerable interest in determining whether recent changes in the temperature distribution extend beyond simple shifts in the mean. The authors present a framework based on quantile regression, wherein trends are estimated across percentiles. Pointwise trends from surface station observations are mapped into continuous spatial fields using thin-plate spline regression. This procedure allows for resolving spatial dependence of distributional trends, providing uncertainty estimates that account for spatial covariance and varying station density. The method is applied to seasonal near-surface temperatures between 1979 and 2014 to unambiguously assess distributional changes in the densely sampled North American region. Strong seasonal differences are found, with summer trends exhibiting significant warming throughout the domain with little distributional dependence, while the spatial distribution of spring and fall trends show a dipole structure. In contrast, the spread between the 95th and 5th percentile in winter has decreased, with trends of −0.71° and −0.85°C decade−1, respectively, for daily maximum and minimum temperature, a contraction that is statistically significant over 84% of the domain. This decrease in variability is dominated by warming of the coldest days, which has outpaced the median trend by approximately a factor of 4. Identical analyses using ERA-Interim and NCEP-2 yield consistent estimates for winter (though not for other seasons), suggesting that reanalyses can be reliably used for relating winter trends to circulation anomalies. These results are consistent with Arctic-amplified warming being strongest in winter and with the influence of synoptic-scale advection on winter temperatures. Maps for all percentiles, seasons, and datasets are provided via an online tool.

Full access
Isla R. Simpson, Clara Deser, Karen A. McKinnon, and Elizabeth A. Barnes

Abstract

Multidecadal variability in the North Atlantic jet stream in general circulation models (GCMs) is compared with that in reanalysis products of the twentieth century. It is found that almost all models exhibit multidecadal jet stream variability that is entirely consistent with the sampling of white noise year-to-year atmospheric fluctuations. In the observed record, the variability displays a pronounced seasonality within the winter months, with greatly enhanced variability toward the late winter. This late winter variability exceeds that found in any GCM and greatly exceeds expectations from the sampling of atmospheric noise, motivating the need for an underlying explanation. The potential roles of both external forcings and internal coupled ocean–atmosphere processes are considered. While the late winter variability is not found to be closely connected with external forcing, it is found to be strongly related to the internally generated component of Atlantic multidecadal variability (AMV) in sea surface temperatures (SSTs). In fact, consideration of the seasonality of the jet stream variability within the winter months reveals that the AMV is far more strongly connected to jet stream variability during March than the early winter months or the winter season as a whole. Reasoning is put forward for why this connection likely represents a driving of the jet stream variability by the SSTs, although the dynamics involved remain to be understood. This analysis reveals a fundamental mismatch between late winter jet stream variability in observations and GCMs and a potential source of long-term predictability of the late winter Atlantic atmospheric circulation.

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

abstract

The role of sampling variability in ENSO composites of winter surface air temperature and precipitation over North America during the period 1920–2013 is assessed for observations and ensembles of coupled model simulations in which sea surface temperature anomalies in the tropical eastern Pacific are nudged to those of the real world. The individual members of each model ensemble show a surprising amount of diversity in their ENSO composites, despite being constructed from the same observed set of 18 El Niño and 14 La Niña events. For a given model, this ensemble spread can only be due to sampling variability, that is, aliasing of internal variability that is unrelated to ENSO, which in turn is shown to arise from internal atmospheric dynamics rather than coupled ocean–atmosphere processes. Analogous ensemble spread is evident in 2000 synthetic ENSO composites based on observations using random sampling techniques. These synthetic composites provide information on the range of spatial patterns and amplitudes associated with imperfect estimation of the forced ENSO signal in the observational record. In some locations, the amplitude of the estimated ENSO signal can vary by more than a factor of two. This observational uncertainty necessitates an approach to model assessment that considers not only the model’s forced response to ENSO, given by its ensemble-mean ENSO composite, but also its representation of internal variability unrelated to ENSO. Such an approach is used to reveal fidelities and shortcomings in the Community Earth System Model, version 1.

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

Abstract

Application of random sampling techniques to composite differences between 18 El Niño and 14 La Niña events observed since 1920 reveals considerable uncertainty in both the pattern and amplitude of the Northern Hemisphere extratropical winter sea level pressure (SLP) response to ENSO. While the SLP responses over the North Pacific and North America are robust to sampling variability, their magnitudes can vary by a factor of 2; other regions, such as the Arctic, North Atlantic, and Europe are less robust in their SLP patterns, amplitudes, and statistical significance. The uncertainties on the observed ENSO composite are shown to arise mainly from atmospheric internal variability as opposed to ENSO diversity. These observational findings pose considerable challenges for the evaluation of ENSO teleconnections in models. An approach is proposed that incorporates both pattern and amplitude uncertainty in the observational target, allowing for discrimination between true model biases in the forced ENSO response and apparent model biases that arise from limited sampling of non-ENSO-related internal variability. Large initial-condition coupled model ensembles with realistic tropical Pacific sea surface temperature anomaly evolution during 1920–2013 show similar levels of uncertainty in their ENSO teleconnections as found in observations. Because the set of ENSO events in each of the model composites is the same (and identical to that in observations), these uncertainties are entirely attributable to sampling fluctuations arising from internal variability, which is shown to originate from atmospheric processes. The initial-condition model ensembles thus inform the interpretation of the single observed ENSO composite and vice versa.

Full access