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Jonah Bloch-Johnson, Maria Rugenstein, and Dorian S. Abbot

Abstract

The sensitivity of the climate to CO2 forcing depends on spatially varying radiative feedbacks that act both locally and nonlocally. We assess whether a method employing multiple regression can be used to estimate local and nonlocal radiative feedbacks from internal variability. We test this method on millennial-length simulations performed with six coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation models (AOGCMs). Given the spatial pattern of warming, the method does quite well at recreating the top-of-atmosphere flux response for most regions of Earth, except over the Southern Ocean where it consistently overestimates the change, leading to an overestimate of the sensitivity. For five of the six models, the method finds that local feedbacks are positive due to cloud processes, balanced by negative nonlocal shortwave cloud feedbacks associated with regions of tropical convection. For four of these models, the magnitudes of both are comparable to the Planck feedback, so that changes in the ratio between them could lead to large changes in climate sensitivity. The positive local feedback explains why observational studies that estimate spatial feedbacks using only local regressions predict an unstable climate. The method implies that sensitivity in these AOGCMs increases over time due to a reduction in the share of warming occurring in tropical convecting regions and the resulting weakening of associated shortwave cloud and longwave clear-sky feedbacks. Our results provide a step toward an observational estimate of time-varying climate sensitivity by demonstrating that many aspects of spatial feedbacks appear to be the same between internal variability and the forced response.

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Jie He, Michael Winton, Gabriel Vecchi, Liwei Jia, and Maria Rugenstein

Abstract

There is large uncertainty in the simulation of transient climate sensitivity. This study aims to understand how such uncertainty is related to the simulation of the base climate by comparing two simulations with the same model but in which CO2 is increased from either a preindustrial (1860) or a present-day (1990) control simulation. This allows different base climate ocean circulations that are representative of those in current climate models to be imposed upon a single model. As a result, the model projects different transient climate sensitivities that are comparable to the multimodel spread. The greater warming in the 1990-start run occurs primarily at high latitudes and particularly over regions of oceanic convection. In the 1990-start run, ocean overturning circulations are initially weaker and weaken less from CO2 forcing. As a consequence, there are smaller reductions in the poleward ocean heat transport, leading to less tropical ocean heat storage and less moderated high-latitude surface warming. This process is evident in both hemispheres, with changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and the Antarctic Bottom Water formation dominating the warming differences in each hemisphere. The high-latitude warming in the 1990-start run is enhanced through albedo and cloud feedbacks, resulting in a smaller ocean heat uptake efficacy. The results highlight the importance of improving the base climate ocean circulation in order to provide a reasonable starting point for assessments of past climate change and the projection of future climate change.

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Kevin Schwarzwald, Andrew Poppick, Maria Rugenstein, Jonah Bloch-Johnson, Jiali Wang, David McInerney, and Elisabeth J. Moyer

Abstract

Changes in precipitation variability can have large societal consequences, whether at the short timescales of flash floods or the longer timescales of multi-year droughts. Recent studies have suggested that in future climate projections, precipitation variability rises more steeply than does its mean, leading to concerns about societal impacts. This work evaluates changes in mean precipitation over a broad range of spatial and temporal scales using a range of models from high-resolution regional simulations to millennial-scale global simulations. Results show that changes depend on the scale of aggregation and involve strong regional differences. On local scales that resolve individual rainfall events (hours and tens of kilometers), changes in precipitation distributions are complex and variances rise substantially more than means, as is required given the well-known disproportionate rise in precipitation intensity. On scales that aggregate across many events, distributional changes become simpler and variability changes smaller. At regional scale, future precipitation distributions can be largely reproduced by a simple transformation of present-day precipitation involving a multiplicative shift and a small additive term. The “extra” broadening is negatively correlated with changes in mean precipitation: in strongly “wetting” areas, distributions broaden less than expected from a simple multiplicative mean change; in “drying” areas, distributions narrow less. Precipitation variability changes are therefore of especial concern in the subtropics, which tend to dry under climate change. Outside the tropics, variability changes are similar on timescales from days to decades, i.e. show little frequency dependence. This behavior is highly robust across models, suggesting it may stem from some fundamental constraint.

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Maria A. A. Rugenstein, Jonathan M. Gregory, Nathalie Schaller, Jan Sedláček, and Reto Knutti

Abstract

In radiative forcing and climate feedback frameworks, the initial stratospheric and tropospheric adjustments to a forcing agent can be treated as part of the forcing and not as a feedback, as long as the average global surface temperature response is negligible. Here, a very large initial condition ensemble of the Community Earth System Model is used to analyze how the ocean shapes the fast response to radiative forcing. It is shown that not only the stratosphere and troposphere but also the ocean adjusts. This oceanic adjustment includes meridional ocean heat transport convergence anomalies, which are locally as large as the surface heat flux anomalies, and an increase of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. These oceanic adjustments set the lower boundary condition for the atmospheric response of the first few years, in particular, the shortwave cloud radiative effect. This cloud adjustment causes a nonlinear relationship between global energy imbalance and temperature. It proceeds with a characteristic time scale of a few years in response to the forcing rather than scaling nonlinearly with global mean temperature anomaly. It is proposed that even very short time scales are treated as a fully coupled problem and encourage other modeling groups to investigate whether our description also suits their models’ behavior. A definition of the forcing term (“virtual forcing”) including oceanic adjustment processes is introduced and serves as an interpretive idea for longer time scales.

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Maria A. A. Rugenstein, Michael Winton, Ronald J. Stouffer, Stephen M. Griffies, and Robert Hallberg

Abstract

Climate models simulate a wide range of climate changes at high northern latitudes in response to increased CO2. They also have substantial disagreement on projected changes of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). Here, two pairs of closely related climate models are used, with each containing members with large and small AMOC declines to explore the influence of AMOC decline on the high-latitude response to increased CO2. The models with larger AMOC decline have less high-latitude warming and sea ice decline than their small AMOC decline counterpart. By examining differences in the perturbation heat budget of the 40°–90°N region, it is shown that AMOC decline diminishes the warming by weakening poleward ocean heat transport and increasing the ocean heat uptake. The cooling impact of this AMOC-forced surface heat flux perturbation difference is enhanced by shortwave feedback and diminished by longwave feedback and atmospheric heat transport differences. The magnitude of the AMOC decline within model pairs is positively related to the magnitudes of control climate AMOC and Labrador and Nordic Seas convection. Because the 40°–90°N region accounts for up to 40% of the simulated global ocean heat uptake over 100 yr, the process described here influences the global heat uptake efficiency.

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Maria Rugenstein, Jonah Bloch-Johnson, Ayako Abe-Ouchi, Timothy Andrews, Urs Beyerle, Long Cao, Tarun Chadha, Gokhan Danabasoglu, Jean-Louis Dufresne, Lei Duan, Marie-Alice Foujols, Thomas Frölicher, Olivier Geoffroy, Jonathan Gregory, Reto Knutti, Chao Li, Alice Marzocchi, Thorsten Mauritsen, Matthew Menary, Elisabeth Moyer, Larissa Nazarenko, David Paynter, David Saint-Martin, Gavin A. Schmidt, Akitomo Yamamoto, and Shuting Yang

Abstract

We present a model intercomparison project, LongRunMIP, the first collection of millennial-length (1,000+ years) simulations of complex coupled climate models with a representation of ocean, atmosphere, sea ice, and land surface, and their interactions. Standard model simulations are generally only a few hundred years long. However, modeling the long-term equilibration in response to radiative forcing perturbation is important for understanding many climate phenomena, such as the evolution of ocean circulation, time- and temperature-dependent feedbacks, and the differentiation of forced signal and internal variability. The aim of LongRunMIP is to facilitate research into these questions by serving as an archive for simulations that capture as much of this equilibration as possible. The only requirement to participate in LongRunMIP is to contribute a simulation with elevated, constant CO2 forcing that lasts at least 1,000 years. LongRunMIP is an MIP of opportunity in that the simulations were mostly performed prior to the conception of the archive without an agreed-upon set of experiments. For most models, the archive contains a preindustrial control simulation and simulations with an idealized (typically abrupt) CO2 forcing. We collect 2D surface and top-of-atmosphere fields and 3D ocean temperature and salinity fields. Here, we document the collection of simulations and discuss initial results, including the evolution of surface and deep ocean temperature and cloud radiative effects. As of October 2019, the collection includes 50 simulations of 15 models by 10 modeling centers. The data of LongRunMIP are publicly available. We encourage submissions of more simulations in the future.

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Stephanie Fiedler, Traute Crueger, Roberta D’Agostino, Karsten Peters, Tobias Becker, David Leutwyler, Laura Paccini, Jörg Burdanowitz, Stefan A. Buehler, Alejandro Uribe Cortes, Thibaut Dauhut, Dietmar Dommenget, Klaus Fraedrich, Leonore Jungandreas, Nicola Maher, Ann Kristin Naumann, Maria Rugenstein, Mirjana Sakradzija, Hauke Schmidt, Frank Sielmann, Claudia Stephan, Claudia Timmreck, Xiuhua Zhu, and Bjorn Stevens

Abstract

The representation of tropical precipitation is evaluated across three generations of models participating in phases 3, 5, and 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP). Compared to state-of-the-art observations, improvements in tropical precipitation in the CMIP6 models are identified for some metrics, but we find no general improvement in tropical precipitation on different temporal and spatial scales. Our results indicate overall little changes across the CMIP phases for the summer monsoons, the double-ITCZ bias, and the diurnal cycle of tropical precipitation. We find a reduced amount of drizzle events in CMIP6, but tropical precipitation occurs still too frequently. Continuous improvements across the CMIP phases are identified for the number of consecutive dry days, for the representation of modes of variability, namely, the Madden–Julian oscillation and El Niño–Southern Oscillation, and for the trends in dry months in the twentieth century. The observed positive trend in extreme wet months is, however, not captured by any of the CMIP phases, which simulate negative trends for extremely wet months in the twentieth century. The regional biases are larger than a climate change signal one hopes to use the models to identify. Given the pace of climate change as compared to the pace of model improvements to simulate tropical precipitation, we question the past strategy of the development of the present class of global climate models as the mainstay of the scientific response to climate change. We suggest the exploration of alternative approaches such as high-resolution storm-resolving models that can offer better prospects to inform us about how tropical precipitation might change with anthropogenic warming.

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