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Beate G. Liepert and Michael Previdi

Abstract

Recently analyzed satellite-derived global precipitation datasets from 1987 to 2006 indicate an increase in global-mean precipitation of 1.1%–1.4% decade−1. This trend corresponds to a hydrological sensitivity (HS) of 7% K−1 of global warming, which is close to the Clausius–Clapeyron (CC) rate expected from the increase in saturation water vapor pressure with temperature. Analysis of two available global ocean evaporation datasets confirms this observed intensification of the atmospheric water cycle. The observed hydrological sensitivity over the past 20-yr period is higher by a factor of 5 than the average HS of 1.4% K−1 simulated in state-of-the-art coupled atmosphere–ocean climate models for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. However, the analysis shows that the interdecadal variability in HS in the models is high—in particular in the twentieth-century runs, which are forced by both increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) and tropospheric aerosol concentrations. About 12% of the 20-yr time intervals of eight twentieth-century climate simulations from the third phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3) have an HS magnitude greater than the CC rate of 6.5% K−1. The analysis further indicates different HS characteristics for GHG and tropospheric aerosol forcing agents. Aerosol-forced HS is a factor of 2 greater, on average, and the interdecadal variability is significantly larger, with about 23% of the 20-yr sensitivities being above the CC rate. By thermodynamically constraining global precipitation changes, it is shown that such changes are linearly related to the difference in the radiative imbalance at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) and the surface (i.e., the atmospheric radiative energy imbalance). The strength of this relationship is controlled by the modified Bowen ratio (here, global sensible heat flux change divided by latent heat flux change). Hydrological sensitivity to aerosols is greater than the sensitivity to GHG because the former have a stronger effect on the shortwave transmissivity of the atmosphere, and thus produce a larger change in the atmospheric radiative energy imbalance. It is found that the observed global precipitation increase of 13 mm yr−1 decade−1 from 1987 to 2006 would require a trend of the atmospheric radiative imbalance (difference between the TOA and the surface) of 0.7 W m−2 decade−1. The recovery from the El Chichón and Mount Pinatubo volcanic aerosol injections in 1982 and 1991, the satellite-observed reductions in cloudiness during the phase of increasing ENSO events in the 1990s, and presumably the observed reduction of anthropogenic aerosol concentrations could have caused such a radiative imbalance trend over the past 20 years. Observational evidence, however, is currently inconclusive, and it will require more detailed investigations and longer satellite time series to answer this question.

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Michael Previdi and Lorenzo M. Polvani

Abstract

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, adopted in 1987, is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out emissions of chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone-depleting substances (ODSs). A growing body of scientific evidence now suggests that the implementation of the Montreal Protocol will have significant effects on climate over the next several decades, both by enabling stratospheric ozone recovery and by decreasing atmospheric concentrations of ODSs, which are greenhouse gases. Here, using a state-of-the-art chemistry–climate model, the Community Earth System Model (Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model) [CESM(WACCM)], it is shown that the Montreal Protocol, through its impact on atmospheric ODS concentrations, leads to a substantial decrease in Antarctic surface mass balance (SMB) over the period 2006–65 relative to a hypothetical “World Avoided” scenario in which the Montreal Protocol has not been implemented. This SMB decrease produces an additional 25 mm of global sea level rise (GSLR) by the year 2065 relative to the present day. It is found, however, that the additional GSLR resulting from the relative decrease in Antarctic SMB is more than offset by a reduction in ocean thermal expansion, leading to a net mitigation of future GSLR due to the Montreal Protocol.

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Michael Previdi, Karen L. Smith, and Lorenzo M. Polvani

Abstract

The authors evaluate 23 coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation models from phase 5 of CMIP (CMIP5) in terms of their ability to simulate the observed climatological mean energy budget of the Antarctic atmosphere. While the models are shown to capture the gross features of the energy budget well [e.g., the observed two-way balance between the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) net radiation and horizontal convergence of atmospheric energy transport], the simulated TOA absorbed shortwave (SW) radiation is too large during austral summer. In the multimodel mean, this excessive absorption reaches approximately 10 W m−2, with even larger biases (up to 25–30 W m−2) in individual models. Previous studies have identified similar climate model biases in the TOA net SW radiation at Southern Hemisphere midlatitudes and have attributed these biases to errors in the simulated cloud cover. Over the Antarctic, though, model cloud errors are of secondary importance, and biases in the simulated TOA net SW flux are instead driven mainly by biases in the clear-sky SW reflection. The latter are likely related in part to the models’ underestimation of the observed annual minimum in Antarctic sea ice extent, thus underscoring the importance of sea ice in the Antarctic energy budget. Finally, substantial differences in the climatological surface energy fluxes between existing observational datasets preclude any meaningful assessment of model skill in simulating these fluxes.

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Karen L. Smith, Michael Previdi, and Lorenzo M. Polvani

Abstract

In this study the authors continue their investigation of the atmospheric energy budget of the Antarctic polar cap (the region poleward of 70°S) using integrations of the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model from the years 1960 to 2065. In agreement with observational data, it is found that the climatological mean net top-of-atmosphere (TOA) radiative flux is primarily balanced by the horizontal energy flux convergence over the polar cap. On interannual time scales, changes in the net TOA radiative flux are also primarily balanced by changes in the energy flux convergence, with the variability in both terms significantly correlated (positively and negatively, respectively) with the southern annular mode (SAM). On multidecadal time scales, twentieth-century stratospheric ozone depletion produces a negative trend in the net TOA radiative flux due to a decrease in the absorbed solar radiation within the atmosphere–surface column. The negative trend in the net TOA radiative flux is balanced by a positive trend in energy flux convergence, primarily in austral summer. This negative (positive) trend in the net TOA radiation (energy flux convergence) occurs despite a positive trend in the SAM, suggesting that the effects of the SAM on the energy budget are overwhelmed by the direct radiative effects of ozone depletion. In the twenty-first century, ozone recovery is expected to reverse the negative trend in the net TOA radiative flux, which would then, again, be balanced by a decrease in the energy flux convergence. Therefore, over the next several decades, ozone recovery will, in all likelihood, mask the effect of greenhouse gas warming on the Antarctic energy budget.

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Adam H. Sobel, Suzana J. Camargo, and Michael Previdi

Abstract

Aerosol cooling reduces tropical cyclone (TC) potential intensity (PI) more strongly, by about a factor of 2 per degree of sea surface temperature change, than greenhouse gas warming increases it. This study analyzes single-forcing and historical experiments from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, aiming to understand the physical mechanisms behind this difference. Calculations are done for the tropical oceans of each hemisphere during the relevant TC seasons, emphasizing multimodel means. PI theory is used to interpret the difference in the PI response to aerosol and greenhouse gas forcings in terms of three factors. The net surface turbulent heat flux (sum of the latent and sensible heat fluxes) explains half of the difference, thermodynamic efficiency explains at most a small fraction, and surface wind speed does not explain the remainder, perhaps because of the use of monthly mean data. Changes in turbulent surface heat fluxes are interpreted as responses to surface radiative flux changes in the context of the energy balance of the ocean mixed layer. Radiative kernels are used to estimate what fractions of the surface radiative flux changes are feedbacks due to temperature and water vapor changes. The greater effect of aerosol forcing occurs because shortwave forcing has a greater direct, temperature-independent component at the surface than does longwave forcing, for a forcing amplitude that provokes the same SST change. This conclusion recalls prior work on the response of precipitation to radiative forcing, and the similarities and differences between precipitation and potential intensity in this regard are discussed.

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Michael Previdi, Karen L. Smith, and Lorenzo M. Polvani

Abstract

The authors present a new, observationally based estimate of the atmospheric energy budget for the Antarctic polar cap (the region poleward of 70°S). This energy budget is constructed using state-of-the-art reanalysis products from ECMWF [the ECMWF Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim)] and Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) top-of-atmosphere (TOA) radiative fluxes for the period 2001–10. The climatological mean Antarctic energy budget is characterized by an approximate balance between the TOA net outgoing radiation and the horizontal convergence of atmospheric energy transport, with the net surface energy flux and atmospheric energy storage generally being small in comparison. Variability in the energy budget on intraseasonal-to-interannual time scales bears a strong signature of the southern annular mode (SAM), with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) having a smaller impact. The energy budget framework is shown to be a useful alternative to the SAM for interpreting surface climate variability in the Antarctic region.

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Karen L. Smith, Gabriel Chiodo, Michael Previdi, and Lorenzo M. Polvani

Abstract

Over the highest elevations of Antarctica, during many months of the year, air near the surface is colder than in much of the overlying atmosphere. This unique feature of the Antarctic atmosphere has been shown to result in a negative greenhouse effect and a negative instantaneous radiative forcing at the top of the atmosphere , when carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations are increased, and it has been suggested that this effect might play some role in te recent cooling trends observed over East Antarctica. Here, using fully coupled global climate model integrations, in addition to radiative transfer model calculations, the authors confirm the existence of such a negative over parts of Antarctica in response to an instantaneous quadrupling of CO2. However, it is also shown that the instantaneous radiative forcing at the tropopause is positive. Further, the negative lasts only a few days following the imposed perturbation, and rapidly disappears as the stratosphere cools in response to increased CO2. As a consequence, like the , the stratosphere-adjusted radiative forcing at the TOA is positive over all of Antarctica and, in the model presented herein, surface temperatures increase everywhere over that continent in response to quadrupled CO2. The results, therefore, clearly demonstrate that the curious negative instantaneous radiative forcing plays no role in the recently observed East Antarctic cooling.

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Nora R. Mascioli, Arlene M. Fiore, Michael Previdi, and Gustavo Correa

Abstract

Changes in extreme temperatures, heat waves, and heavy rainfall events have adverse effects on human health, air quality, and water resources. With aerosol-only (AER) and greenhouse gas–only (GHG) simulations from 1860 to 2005 in the GFDL CM3 chemistry–climate model, aerosol-induced versus greenhouse gas–induced changes in temperature (summer) and precipitation (all seasons) extremes over the United States are investigated. Small changes in these extremes in the all forcing simulations reflect cancellations between the effects of increasing anthropogenic aerosols and greenhouse gases. In AER, extreme high temperatures and the number of days with temperatures above the 90th percentile decline over most of the United States. The strongest response occurs in the western United States (−2.0°C and −14 days, regionally averaged) and the weakest response occurs in the southeastern United States (−0.6°C and −4.8 days). An opposite-signed response pattern occurs in GHG (+2.3°C and +11.5 days over the western United States and +1.6°C and +7.2 days over the southeastern United States). The similar spatial response patterns in AER versus GHG suggest a preferred regional mode of response that is largely independent of the type of forcing. Extreme precipitation over the eastern United States decreases in AER, particularly in winter, and increases over the eastern and central United States in GHG, particularly in spring. Over the twenty-first century under the representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) emissions scenario, the patterns of extreme temperature and precipitation associated with greenhouse gas forcing dominate.

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