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Gang Chen and Lantao Sun

Abstract

The role of extratropical waves in the tropical upwelling branch of the Brewer–Dobson circulation is investigated in an idealized model of the stratosphere and troposphere. To simulate different stratospheric seasonal cycles of planetary waves in the two hemispheres, seasonally varying radiative heating is imposed only in the stratosphere, and surface topographic forcing is prescribed only in the Northern Hemisphere (NH). A zonally symmetric version of the same model is used to diagnose the effects of different wavenumbers and different regions of the total forcing on tropical stratospheric upwelling.

The simple configuration can simulate a reasonable seasonal cycle of the tropical upwelling in the lower stratosphere with a stronger amplitude in January (NH midwinter) than in July (NH midsummer), as in the observations. It is shown that the seasonal cycle of stratospheric planetary waves and tropical upwelling responds nonlinearly to the strength of the tropospheric forcing, with a midwinter maximum under strong NH-like tropospheric forcing and double peaks in the fall and spring under weak Southern Hemisphere (SH)-like forcing. The planetary wave component of the total forcing can approximately reproduce the seasonal cycle of tropical stratospheric upwelling in the zonally symmetric model.

The zonally symmetric model further demonstrates that the planetary wave forcing in the winter tropical and subtropical stratosphere contributes most to the seasonal cycle of tropical stratospheric upwelling, rather than the high-latitude wave forcing. This suggests that the planetary wave forcing, prescribed mostly in the extratropics in the model, has to propagate equatorward into the subtropical latitudes to induce sufficient tropical upwelling. Another interesting finding is that the planetary waves in the summer lower stratosphere can drive a shallow residual circulation rising in the subtropics and subsiding in the extratropics.

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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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Huang Yang, Lantao Sun, and Gang Chen

Abstract

Previous studies have suggested that Southern Hemisphere (SH) summertime trends in the atmospheric circulation in the second half of the twentieth century are mainly driven by stratospheric ozone depletion in spring. Here, the authors show that the pattern and timing of observed trends, characterized by downward propagation of signals, can be approximately captured in an idealized atmospheric global circulation model (AGCM) by imposing ozone depletion–like radiative cooling.

It is further shown that the synoptic eddies dominantly contribute to the transient tropospheric response to polar stratospheric cooling. The authors examine three possible mechanisms on the downward influence of polar stratospheric cooling. The polar stratospheric cooling affects tropospheric synoptic eddies via (i) the direct influences on the lower-stratospheric synoptic eddies, (ii) the planetary wave–induced residual circulation, and (iii) the planetary eddy–synoptic eddy nonlinear interaction. It is argued that the planetary wave–induced residual circulation is not the dominant mechanism and that the planetary eddies and further nonlinear interaction with synoptic eddies are more likely the key to the downward influence of the ozone depletion–like cooling.

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D. Alex Burrows, Gang Chen, and Lantao Sun

Abstract

Studies have suggested that the persistence in the meridional vacillation of the midlatitude jet (i.e., annular mode time scale) in comprehensive climate models is related to the model biases in climatological jet latitude, with important implications for projections of future climates and midlatitude weather events. Through the use of the recently developed finite-amplitude wave activity formalism and feedback quantifying techniques, this paper has quantified the role of barotropic and baroclinic eddy feedbacks in annular mode time scales using an idealized dry atmospheric model.

The eddy–mean flow interaction that characterizes the persistent anomalous state of the midlatitude jet depends on processes associated with the lower-tropospheric source of vertically propagating Rossby waves, baroclinic mechanisms, and processes associated with upper-tropospheric wave propagation and breaking, barotropic mechanisms. A variety of climate change–like thermal forcings are used to generate a range of meridional shifts in the midlatitude eddy-driven jet. The idealized model shows a reduction in annular mode time scale associated with an increase in jet latitude, similar to comprehensive climate models. This decrease in time scale can be attributed to a similar decrease in the strength of the barotropic eddy feedback, which, in the positive phase of the annular mode, is characterized by anomalous potential vorticity (PV) mixing on the equatorward flank of the climatological jet. The decrease in subtropical PV mixing is, in turn, associated with a stronger subtropical jet as the eddy-driven jet is more distant from the subtropics. These results highlight the importance of subtropical eddy–mean flow interactions for the persistence of an eddy-driven jet.

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Lantao Sun, Michael Alexander, and Clara Deser

Abstract

The role of transient Arctic sea ice loss in the projected greenhouse gas–induced late-twentieth- to late-twenty-first-century climate change is investigated using the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory’s Coupled Model version 3. Two sets of simulations have been conducted, one with representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 radiative forcing and the second with RCP forcing but with Arctic sea ice nudged to its 1990 state. The difference between the two five-member sets indicates the influence of decreasing Arctic sea ice on the climate system. Within the Arctic, sea ice loss is found to be a primary driver of the surface temperature and precipitation changes. Arctic sea ice depletion also plays a dominant role in projected Atlantic meridional overturning circulation weakening and changes in North Atlantic extratropical sea surface temperature and salinity, especially in the first half century. The effect of present-day Arctic sea ice loss on Northern Hemisphere (NH) extratropical atmospheric circulation is small relative to internal variability and the future sea ice loss effect on atmospheric circulation is distinct from the projected anthropogenic change. Arctic sea ice loss warms NH extratropical continents and is an important contributor to global warming not only over high latitudes but also in the eastern United States. Last, the Arctic sea ice loss displaces the Pacific intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) equatorward and induces a “mini-global warming” in the tropical upper troposphere.

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Clara Deser, Robert A. Tomas, and Lantao Sun

Abstract

The role of ocean–atmosphere coupling in the zonal-mean climate response to projected late twenty-first-century Arctic sea ice loss is investigated using Community Climate System Model version 4 (CCSM4) at 1° spatial resolution. Parallel experiments with different ocean model configurations (full-depth, slab, and no interactive ocean) allow the roles of dynamical and thermodynamic ocean feedbacks to be isolated. In the absence of ocean coupling, the atmospheric response to Arctic sea ice loss is confined to north of 30°N, consisting of a weakening and equatorward shift of the westerlies accompanied by lower tropospheric warming and enhanced precipitation at high latitudes. With ocean feedbacks, the response expands to cover the whole globe and exhibits a high degree of equatorial symmetry: the entire troposphere warms, the global hydrological cycle strengthens, and the intertropical convergence zones shift equatorward. Ocean dynamics are fundamental to producing this equatorially symmetric pattern of response to Arctic sea ice loss. Finally, the absence of a poleward shift of the wintertime Northern Hemisphere westerlies in CCSM4’s response to greenhouse gas radiative forcing is shown to result from the competing effects of Arctic sea ice loss and greenhouse warming on the meridional temperature gradient in middle latitudes.

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Lantao Sun, Walter A. Robinson, and Gang Chen

Abstract

Stratospheric final warming events are simulated in an idealized atmospheric model by imposing a winter-to-summer transition in radiative equilibrium temperature only in the stratosphere. Large ensembles of events are simulated with different strengths of topographic forcing. It is found that the dates of final warmings become earlier and their downward influence on the troposphere becomes stronger for greater topographic amplitudes. This result is similar to observed differences between the downward influence of the final warming in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The mechanisms through which the final warming exerts its influence on the tropospheric circulation are investigated using a zonally symmetric model. It is found that lower-stratospheric wave driving induces a residual circulation that affects the tropospheric circulation. The stratosphere also affects the propagation of planetary waves in the upper troposphere, resulting in a burst of wave activity and a rapid deceleration of tropospheric zonal winds at the time of the final warming. These results highlight the important roles of planetary waves in the downward influence of the stratospheric final warming events.

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Lantao Sun, Clara Deser, and Robert A. Tomas

Abstract

The impact of projected Arctic sea ice loss on the atmospheric circulation is investigated using the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM), a model with a well-resolved stratosphere. Two 160-yr simulations are conducted: one with surface boundary conditions fixed at late twentieth-century values and the other with identical conditions except for Arctic sea ice, which is prescribed at late twenty-first-century values. Their difference isolates the impact of future Arctic sea ice loss upon the atmosphere. The tropospheric circulation response to the imposed ice loss resembles the negative phase of the northern annular mode, with the largest amplitude in winter, while the less well-known stratospheric response transitions from a slight weakening of the polar vortex in winter to a strengthening of the vortex in spring. The lack of a significant winter stratospheric circulation response is shown to be a consequence of largely cancelling effects from sea ice loss in the Atlantic and Pacific sectors, which drive opposite-signed changes in upward wave propagation from the troposphere to the stratosphere. Identical experiments conducted with Community Atmosphere Model, version 4, WACCM’s low-top counterpart, show a weaker tropospheric response and a different stratospheric response compared to WACCM. An additional WACCM experiment in which the imposed ice loss is limited to August–November reveals that autumn ice loss weakens the stratospheric polar vortex in January, followed by a small but significant tropospheric response in late winter and early spring that resembles the negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation, with attendant surface climate impacts.

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James A. Screen, Clara Deser, and Lantao Sun

Abstract

In early January 2014, an Arctic air outbreak brought extreme cold and heavy snowfall to central and eastern North America, causing widespread disruption and monetary losses. The media extensively reported the cold snap, including debate on whether human-induced climate change was partly responsible. Related to this, one particular hypothesis garnered considerable attention: that rapid Arctic sea ice loss may be increasing the risk of cold extremes in the midlatitudes. Here we use large ensembles of model simulations to explore how the risk of North American daily cold extremes is anticipated to change in the future, in response to increases in greenhouse gases and the component of that response solely due to Arctic sea ice loss. Specifically, we examine the changing probability of daily cold extremes as (un)common as the 7 January 2014 event. Projected increases in greenhouse gases decrease the likelihood of North American cold extremes in the future. Days as cold or colder than 7 January 2014 are still projected to occur in the mid-twenty-first century (2030–49), albeit less frequently than in the late twentieth century (1980–99). However, such events will cease to occur by the late twenty-first century (2080–99), assuming greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. Continued Arctic sea ice loss is a major driver of decreased—not increased—North America cold extremes. Projected Arctic sea ice loss alone reduces the odds of such an event by one-quarter to one-third by the mid-twenty-first century, and to zero (or near zero) by the late twenty-first century.

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Lantao Sun, Walter A. Robinson, and Gang Chen

Abstract

The roles of the stratosphere and the troposphere in determining the predictability of stratospheric final warming and sudden warming events are evaluated in an idealized atmospheric model. For each stratospheric warming event simulated in the model, a number of forecast experiments are performed from 10 or 20 days prior to the warming onset with perturbations in the troposphere and in the stratosphere separately. It is found that the stratosphere affects predictions of warming onset primarily by providing the initial state of the zonal winds, while the tropospheric initial conditions have a large impact through the generation and propagation of planetary waves. These results correspond to the roles played by the initial zonal flow and the evolution of eddy forcings in a zonally symmetric model. The initial stratospheric zonal flow has some influence on stratospheric wave driving, but in most cases this does not significantly affect the timing of the warming, except when the initial condition is close to the onset date. These results highlight the role of the troposphere in determining stratospheric planetary wave driving and support the importance of tropospheric precursors to the stratospheric warming events.

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