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James F. Booth, Young-Oh Kwon, Stanley Ko, R. Justin Small, and Rym Msadek

Abstract

To improve the understanding of storm tracks and western boundary current (WBC) interactions, surface storm tracks in 12 CMIP5 models are examined against ERA-Interim. All models capture an equatorward displacement toward the WBCs in the locations of the surface storm tracks’ maxima relative to those at 850 hPa. An estimated storm-track metric is developed to analyze the location of the surface storm track. It shows that the equatorward shift is influenced by both the lower-tropospheric instability and the baroclinicity. Basin-scale spatial correlations between models and ERA-Interim for the storm tracks, near-surface stability, SST gradient, and baroclinicity are calculated to test the ability of the GCMs’ match reanalysis. An intermodel comparison of the spatial correlations suggests that differences (relative to ERA-Interim) in the position of the storm track aloft have the strongest influence on differences in the surface storm-track position. However, in the North Atlantic, biases in the surface storm track north of the Gulf Stream are related to biases in the SST. An analysis of the strength of the storm tracks shows that most models generate a weaker storm track at the surface than 850 hPa, consistent with observations, although some outliers are found. A linear relationship exists among the models between storm-track amplitudes at 500 and 850 hPa, but not between 850 hPa and the surface. In total, the work reveals a dual role in forcing the surface storm track from aloft and from the ocean surface in CMIP5 models, with the atmosphere having the larger relative influence.

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Rym Msadek, T. L. Delworth, A. Rosati, W. Anderson, G. Vecchi, Y.-S. Chang, K. Dixon, R. G. Gudgel, W. Stern, A. Wittenberg, X. Yang, F. Zeng, R. Zhang, and S. Zhang

Abstract

Decadal prediction experiments were conducted as part of phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) using the GFDL Climate Model, version 2.1 (CM2.1) forecast system. The abrupt warming of the North Atlantic Subpolar Gyre (SPG) that was observed in the mid-1990s is considered as a case study to evaluate forecast capabilities and better understand the reasons for the observed changes. Initializing the CM2.1 coupled system produces high skill in retrospectively predicting the mid-1990s shift, which is not captured by the uninitialized forecasts. All the hindcasts initialized in the early 1990s show a warming of the SPG; however, only the ensemble-mean hindcasts initialized in 1995 and 1996 are able to reproduce the observed abrupt warming and the associated decrease and contraction of the SPG. Examination of the physical mechanisms responsible for the successful retrospective predictions indicates that initializing the ocean is key to predicting the mid-1990s warming. The successful initialized forecasts show an increased Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and North Atlantic Current transport, which drive an increased advection of warm saline subtropical waters northward, leading to a westward shift of the subpolar front and, subsequently, a warming and spindown of the SPG. Significant seasonal climate impacts are predicted as the SPG warms, including a reduced sea ice concentration over the Arctic, an enhanced warming over the central United States during summer and fall, and a northward shift of the mean ITCZ. These climate anomalies are similar to those observed during a warm phase of the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation, which is encouraging for future predictions of North Atlantic climate.

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Rong Zhang, Thomas L. Delworth, Rowan Sutton, Daniel L. R. Hodson, Keith W. Dixon, Isaac M. Held, Yochanan Kushnir, John Marshall, Yi Ming, Rym Msadek, Jon Robson, Anthony J. Rosati, MingFang Ting, and Gabriel A. Vecchi

Abstract

Identifying the prime drivers of the twentieth-century multidecadal variability in the Atlantic Ocean is crucial for predicting how the Atlantic will evolve in the coming decades and the resulting broad impacts on weather and precipitation patterns around the globe. Recently, Booth et al. showed that the Hadley Centre Global Environmental Model, version 2, Earth system configuration (HadGEM2-ES) closely reproduces the observed multidecadal variations of area-averaged North Atlantic sea surface temperature in the twentieth century. The multidecadal variations simulated in HadGEM2-ES are primarily driven by aerosol indirect effects that modify net surface shortwave radiation. On the basis of these results, Booth et al. concluded that aerosols are a prime driver of twentieth-century North Atlantic climate variability. However, here it is shown that there are major discrepancies between the HadGEM2-ES simulations and observations in the North Atlantic upper-ocean heat content, in the spatial pattern of multidecadal SST changes within and outside the North Atlantic, and in the subpolar North Atlantic sea surface salinity. These discrepancies may be strongly influenced by, and indeed in large part caused by, aerosol effects. It is also shown that the aerosol effects simulated in HadGEM2-ES cannot account for the observed anticorrelation between detrended multidecadal surface and subsurface temperature variations in the tropical North Atlantic. These discrepancies cast considerable doubt on the claim that aerosol forcing drives the bulk of this multidecadal variability.

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G. A. Vecchi, T. Delworth, R. Gudgel, S. Kapnick, A. Rosati, A. T. Wittenberg, F. Zeng, W. Anderson, V. Balaji, K. Dixon, L. Jia, H.-S. Kim, L. Krishnamurthy, R. Msadek, W. F. Stern, S. D. Underwood, G. Villarini, X. Yang, and S. Zhang

Abstract

Tropical cyclones (TCs) are a hazard to life and property and a prominent element of the global climate system; therefore, understanding and predicting TC location, intensity, and frequency is of both societal and scientific significance. Methodologies exist to predict basinwide, seasonally aggregated TC activity months, seasons, and even years in advance. It is shown that a newly developed high-resolution global climate model can produce skillful forecasts of seasonal TC activity on spatial scales finer than basinwide, from months and seasons in advance of the TC season. The climate model used here is targeted at predicting regional climate and the statistics of weather extremes on seasonal to decadal time scales, and comprises high-resolution (50 km × 50 km) atmosphere and land components as well as more moderate-resolution (~100 km) sea ice and ocean components. The simulation of TC climatology and interannual variations in this climate model is substantially improved by correcting systematic ocean biases through “flux adjustment.” A suite of 12-month duration retrospective forecasts is performed over the 1981–2012 period, after initializing the climate model to observationally constrained conditions at the start of each forecast period, using both the standard and flux-adjusted versions of the model. The standard and flux-adjusted forecasts exhibit equivalent skill at predicting Northern Hemisphere TC season sea surface temperature, but the flux-adjusted model exhibits substantially improved basinwide and regional TC activity forecasts, highlighting the role of systematic biases in limiting the quality of TC forecasts. These results suggest that dynamical forecasts of seasonally aggregated regional TC activity months in advance are feasible.

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