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Paul W. Staten, Thomas Reichler, and Jian Lu

Abstract

Tropospheric circulation shifts have strong potential to impact surface climate. However, the magnitude of these shifts in a changing climate and the attending regional hydrological changes are difficult to project. Part of this difficulty arises from the lack of understanding of the physical mechanisms behind the circulation shifts themselves. To better delineate circulation shifts and their respective causes the circulation response is decomposed into 1) the “direct” response to radiative forcings themselves and 2) the “indirect” response to changing sea surface temperatures. Using ensembles of 90-day climate model simulations with immediate switch-on forcings, including perturbed greenhouse gas concentrations, stratospheric ozone concentrations, and sea surface temperatures, this paper documents the direct and indirect transient responses of the zonal-mean general circulation, and investigates the roles of previously proposed mechanisms in shifting the midlatitude jet. It is found that both the direct and indirect wind responses often begin in the lower stratosphere. Changes in midlatitude eddies are ubiquitous and synchronous with the midlatitude zonal wind response. Shifts in the critical latitude of wave absorption on either flank of the jet are not indicted as primary factors for the poleward-shifting jet, although some evidence for increasing equatorward wave reflection over the Southern Hemisphere in response to sea surface warming is seen. Mechanisms for the Northern Hemisphere jet shift are less clear.

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Samuel Smith, Paul W. Staten, and Jian Lu

Abstract

Models disagree on how much the hydrologic cycle could intensify under climate change. These changes are expected to scale with the Clausius–Clapeyron relation but may locally diverge due in part to the uncertain response of the general circulation, causing the hydrologic cycle to inherit this uncertainty. To identify how the circulation contributes, we link circulation changes to changes in the higher moments of the hydrologic cycle using the novel dynamical framework of the local hydrologic cycle, the portion of the hydrologic cycle driven by moist or dry intrusions. We expand this dynamical framework, developing a closed budget that diagnoses thermodynamic, advective, and overturning contributions to future hydrologic cycle changes. In analyzing these changes for the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble, we show that overturning is the main dynamic contributor to the tropical and subtropical annual response, consistent with a weakening of this circulation. In the extratropics, we show that advective contributions, likely from storm track changes, dominate the response. We achieve a cleaner separation between dynamic and thermodynamic contributions through a semiempirical scaling, which reveals the robustness of the Clausius–Clapeyron scaling for the local hydrologic cycle. This scaling also demonstrates the slowing of the local hydrologic cycle and how changing subtropical dynamics asymmetrically impact wave breaking and suppress meridional moisture transport. We conclude that dynamic changes in the subtropics are predominantly responsible for the annual, dynamic response in the extratropics and thus a significant contributor to uncertainty in future projections.

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Shay Liu, Paul W. Staten, and Brian H. Kahn

Abstract

Shifts in deep tropical convection and midlatitude jet streams both manifest themselves in high cloud anomalies. Such anomalies may play a significant role in local to global climate processes. This work investigates how high cloud properties covary with two primary interannual modes of variability in the Southern Hemisphere (SH): El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the southern annular mode (SAM). In contrast to several recent studies that utilize the latest remote sensing datasets (e.g., CloudSat), we employ a novel combination of imager and sounder data from legacy satellite instruments. Using these legacy data, we confirm the poleward shift of high cloud fields in the SH midlatitudes with SAM seen in other recent studies and characterize the opposing impacts of SAM and ENSO on the South Pacific convergence zone and Southern Hemisphere storm tracks. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the standard deviation of brightness temperature data from the window channel acts as a surrogate for high cloud fraction in the tropics and midlatitudes. Our results reconcile apparent differences in recent studies and suggest that brightness temperature standard deviations are climate relevant, in addition to being largely insensitive to instrument calibration.

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Lan Luan, Paul W. Staten, Chi O. Ao, and Qiang Fu

Abstract

The width of the tropical belt has been analyzed with a variety of metrics, often based on zonal-mean data from reanalyses. However, constraining the global and regional tropical width requires both a global spatial-resolving observational dataset and an appropriate metric to take advantage of such data. The tropical tropopause break is arguably such a metric. This study aims to evaluate the performance of different reanalyses and metrics with a focus on depicting regional tropical belt width. We choose four distinct tropopause-break metrics derived from global positioning system radio occultation (GPS-RO) satellite data and four modern reanalyses (ERA-Interim, MERRA-2, JRA-55, and CFSR). We show that reanalyses generally reproduce the regional tropical tropopause break to within 10° of that in GPS-RO data—but that the tropical width is somewhat sensitive (within 4°) to how data are averaged zonally, moderately sensitive (within 10°) to the dataset resolution, and more sensitive (20° over the Northern Hemisphere Atlantic Ocean during June–August) to the choice of metric. Reanalyses capture the poleward displacement of the tropical tropopause break over land and equatorward displacement over ocean during summertime, and the reverse during the wintertime. Reanalysis-based tropopause breaks are also generally well correlated with those from GPS-RO, although CFSR reproduces 14-yr trends much more closely than others (including ERA-Interim). However, it is hard to say which dataset is the best match of GPS-RO. We further find that the tropical tropopause break is representative of the subtropical jet latitude and the Northern Hemisphere edge of the Hadley circulation in terms of year-to-year variations.

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Kevin M. Grise, Sean M. Davis, Paul W. Staten, and Ori Adam

Abstract

In recent decades, the subtropical edges of Earth’s Hadley circulation have shifted poleward. Some studies have concluded that this observed tropical expansion is occurring more rapidly than predicted by global climate models. However, recent modeling studies have shown that internal variability can account for a large fraction of the observed circulation trends, at least in an annual-mean, zonal-mean framework. This study extends these previous results by examining the seasonal and regional characteristics of the recent poleward expansion of the Hadley circulation using seven reanalysis datasets, sea level pressure observations, and surface wind observations. The circulation has expanded the most poleward during summer and fall in both hemispheres, with more zonally asymmetric circulation trends occurring in the Northern Hemisphere (NH). The seasonal and regional characteristics of these observed trends generally fall within the range of trends predicted by climate models for the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and in most cases, the magnitude of the observed trends does not exceed the range of interdecadal trends in the models’ control runs, which arise exclusively from internal variability. One exception occurs during NH fall when large observed poleward shifts in the atmospheric circulation over the North Atlantic sector exceed nearly all trends projected by models. While most recent NH circulation trends are consistent with a change in phase of the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO), the observed circulation trends over the North Atlantic instead reflect 1) large natural variability unrelated to the PDO and/or 2) a climate forcing (or the circulation response to that forcing) that is not properly captured by models.

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Paul W. Staten, Brian H. Kahn, Mathias M. Schreier, and Andrew K. Heidinger

Abstract

This paper describes a cloud type radiance record derived from NOAA polar-orbiting weather satellites using cloud properties retrieved from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) and spectral brightness temperatures (T b) observed by the High Resolution Infrared Radiation Sounder (HIRS). The authors seek to produce a seamless, global-scale, long-term record of cloud type and T b statistics intended to better characterize clouds from seasonal to decadal time scales. Herein, the methodology is described in which the cloud type statistics retrieved from AVHRR are interpolated onto each HIRS footprint using two cloud classification methods. This approach is tested over the northeast tropical and subtropical Pacific Ocean region, which contains a wide variety of cloud types during a significant ENSO variation from 2008 to 2009. It is shown that the T b histograms sorted by cloud type are realistic for all HIRS channels. The magnitude of T b biases among spatially coincident satellite intersections over the northeast Pacific is a function of cloud type and wavelength. While the sign of the bias can change, the magnitudes are generally small for NOAA-18 and NOAA-19, and NOAA-19 and MetOp-A intersections. The authors further show that the differences between calculated standard deviations of cloud-typed T b well exceed intersatellite calibration uncertainties. The authors argue that consideration of higher-order statistical moments determined from spectral infrared observations may serve as a useful long-term measure of small-scale spatial changes, in particular cloud types over the HIRS–AVHRR observing record.

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Kevin M. Grise, Sean M. Davis, Isla R. Simpson, Darryn W. Waugh, Qiang Fu, Robert J. Allen, Karen H. Rosenlof, Caroline C. Ummenhofer, Kristopher B. Karnauskas, Amanda C. Maycock, Xiao-Wei Quan, Thomas Birner, and Paul W. Staten

Abstract

Previous studies have documented a poleward shift in the subsiding branches of Earth’s Hadley circulation since 1979 but have disagreed on the causes of these observed changes and the ability of global climate models to capture them. This synthesis paper reexamines a number of contradictory claims in the past literature and finds that the tropical expansion indicated by modern reanalyses is within the bounds of models’ historical simulations for the period 1979–2005. Earlier conclusions that models were underestimating the observed trends relied on defining the Hadley circulation using the mass streamfunction from older reanalyses. The recent observed tropical expansion has similar magnitudes in the annual mean in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) and Southern Hemisphere (SH), but models suggest that the factors driving the expansion differ between the hemispheres. In the SH, increasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) and stratospheric ozone depletion contributed to tropical expansion over the late twentieth century, and if GHGs continue increasing, the SH tropical edge is projected to shift further poleward over the twenty-first century, even as stratospheric ozone concentrations recover. In the NH, the contribution of GHGs to tropical expansion is much smaller and will remain difficult to detect in a background of large natural variability, even by the end of the twenty-first century. To explain similar recent tropical expansion rates in the two hemispheres, natural variability must be taken into account. Recent coupled atmosphere–ocean variability, including the Pacific decadal oscillation, has contributed to tropical expansion. However, in models forced with observed sea surface temperatures, tropical expansion rates still vary widely because of internal atmospheric variability.

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Paul W. Staten, Kevin M. Grise, Sean M. Davis, Kristopher B. Karnauskas, Darryn W. Waugh, Amanda C. Maycock, Qiang Fu, Kerry Cook, Ori Adam, Isla R. Simpson, Robert J Allen, Karen Rosenlof, Gang Chen, Caroline C. Ummenhofer, Xiao-Wei Quan, James P. Kossin, Nicholas A. Davis, and Seok-Woo Son

Abstract

Over the past 15 years, numerous studies have suggested that the sinking branches of Earth’s Hadley circulation and the associated subtropical dry zones have shifted poleward over the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century. Early estimates of this tropical widening from satellite observations and reanalyses varied from 0.25° to 3° latitude per decade, while estimates from global climate models show widening at the lower end of the observed range. In 2016, two working groups, the U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) working group on the Changing Width of the Tropical Belt and the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) Tropical Width Diagnostics Intercomparison Project, were formed to synthesize current understanding of the magnitude, causes, and impacts of the recent tropical widening evident in observations. These working groups concluded that the large rates of observed tropical widening noted by earlier studies resulted from their use of metrics that poorly capture changes in the Hadley circulation, or from the use of reanalyses that contained spurious trends. Accounting for these issues reduces the range of observed expansion rates to 0.25°–0.5° latitude decade‒1—within the range from model simulations. Models indicate that most of the recent Northern Hemisphere tropical widening is consistent with natural variability, whereas increasing greenhouse gases and decreasing stratospheric ozone likely played an important role in Southern Hemisphere widening. Whatever the cause or rate of expansion, understanding the regional impacts of tropical widening requires additional work, as different forcings can produce different regional patterns of widening.

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Yolande L. Serra, Jennifer S. Haase, David K. Adams, Qiang Fu, Thomas P. Ackerman, M. Joan Alexander, Avelino Arellano, Larissa Back, Shu-Hua Chen, Kerry Emanuel, Zeljka Fuchs, Zhiming Kuang, Benjamin R Lintner, Brian Mapes, David Neelin, David Raymond, Adam H. Sobel, Paul W. Staten, Aneesh Subramanian, David W. J. Thompson, Gabriel Vecchi, Robert Wood, and Paquita Zuidema
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