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F. I. M. Thomas, S. A. McCarthy, J. Bower, S. Krothapalli, M. J. Atkinson, and P. Flament

Abstract

Response characteristics of a microhole potentiostatic oxygen sensor and a Beckman membrane oxygen sensor were measured in a laboratory over temperatures ranging from 1° to 21°C. The response term τ of the microhole sensor changed 1.7-fold over this temperature range, and τ of the membrane sensor changed 1.6-fold. For the microhole sensor, the effect of temperature on τ can be modeled as lnτ+−6.5 + 1618T −1. For the membrane sensor the temperature effect on τ can be modeled as lnτ = −5.8 + 2116T −1, where T is temperature in kelvins.

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Mark P. McCarthy, H. A. Titchner, P. W. Thorne, S. F. B. Tett, L. Haimberger, and D. E. Parker

Abstract

Uncertainties in observed records of atmospheric temperature aloft remain poorly quantified. This has resulted in considerable controversy regarding signals of climate change over recent decades from temperature records of radiosondes and satellites. This work revisits the problems associated with the removal of inhomogeneities from the historical radiosonde temperature records, and provides a method for quantifying uncertainty in an adjusted radiosonde climate record due to the subjective choices made during the data homogenization.

This paper presents an automated homogenization method designed to replicate the decisions made by manual judgment in the generation of an earlier radiosonde dataset [i.e., the Hadley Centre radiosonde temperature dataset (HadAT)]. A number of validation experiments have been conducted to test the system performance and impact on linear trends.

Using climate model data to simulate biased radiosonde data, the authors show that limitations in the homogenization method are sufficiently large to explain much of the tropical trend discrepancy between HadAT and estimates from satellite platforms and climate models. This situation arises from the combination of systematic (unknown magnitude) and random uncertainties (of order 0.05 K decade−1) in the radiosonde data. Previous assessment of trends and uncertainty in HadAT is likely to have underestimated the systematic bias in tropical mean temperature trends. This objective assessment of radiosonde homogenization supports the conclusions of the synthesis report of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), and associated research, regarding potential bias in tropospheric temperature records from radiosondes.

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Holly A. Titchner, P. W. Thorne, M. P. McCarthy, S. F. B. Tett, L. Haimberger, and D. E. Parker

Abstract

Biases and uncertainties in large-scale radiosonde temperature trends in the troposphere are critically reassessed. Realistic validation experiments are performed on an automatic radiosonde homogenization system by applying it to climate model data with four distinct sets of simulated breakpoint profiles. Knowledge of the “truth” permits a critical assessment of the ability of the system to recover the large-scale trends and a reinterpretation of the results when applied to the real observations.

The homogenization system consistently reduces the bias in the daytime tropical, global, and Northern Hemisphere (NH) extratropical trends but underestimates the full magnitude of the bias. Southern Hemisphere (SH) extratropical and all nighttime trends were less well adjusted owing to the sparsity of stations. The ability to recover the trends is dependent on the underlying error structure, and the true trend does not necessarily lie within the range of estimates. The implications are that tropical tropospheric trends in the unadjusted daytime radiosonde observations, and in many current upper-air datasets, are biased cold, but the degree of this bias cannot be robustly quantified. Therefore, remaining biases in the radiosonde temperature record may account for the apparent tropical lapse rate discrepancy between radiosonde data and climate models. Furthermore, the authors find that the unadjusted global and NH extratropical tropospheric trends are biased cold in the daytime radiosonde observations.

Finally, observing system experiments show that, if the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Upper Air Network (GUAN) were to make climate quality observations adhering to the GCOS monitoring principles, then one would be able to constrain the uncertainties in trends at a more comprehensive set of stations. This reaffirms the importance of running GUAN under the GCOS monitoring principles.

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B. I. Moat, B. Sinha, S. A. Josey, J. Robson, P. Ortega, F. Sévellec, N. P. Holliday, G. D. McCarthy, A. L. New, and J. J.-M. Hirschi

Abstract

An ocean mixed layer heat budget methodology is used to investigate the physical processes determining subpolar North Atlantic (SPNA) sea surface temperature (SST) and ocean heat content (OHC) variability on decadal to multidecadal time scales using the state-of-the-art climate model HadGEM3-GC2. New elements include development of an equation for evolution of anomalous SST for interannual and longer time scales in a form analogous to that for OHC, parameterization of the diffusive heat flux at the base of the mixed layer, and analysis of a composite Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) event. Contributions to OHC and SST variability from two sources are evaluated: 1) net ocean–atmosphere heat flux and 2) all other processes, including advection, diffusion, and entrainment for SST. Anomalies in OHC tendency propagate anticlockwise around the SPNA on multidecadal time scales with a clear relationship to the phase of the AMOC. AMOC anomalies lead SST tendencies, which in turn lead OHC tendencies in both the eastern and western SPNA. OHC and SST variations in the SPNA on decadal time scales are dominated by AMOC variability because it controls variability of advection, which is shown to be the dominant term in the OHC budget. Lags between OHC and SST are traced to differences between the advection term for OHC and the advection–entrainment term for SST. The new results have implications for interpretation of variations in Atlantic heat uptake in the CMIP6 climate model assessment.

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A. Duchez, J. J.-M. Hirschi, S. A. Cunningham, A. T. Blaker, H. L. Bryden, B. de Cuevas, C. P. Atkinson, G. D. McCarthy, E. Frajka-Williams, D. Rayner, D. Smeed, and M. S. Mizielinski

Abstract

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) has received considerable attention, motivated by its major role in the global climate system. Observations of AMOC strength at 26°N made by the Rapid Climate Change (RAPID) array provide the best current estimate of the state of the AMOC. The period 2004–11 when RAPID AMOC is available is too short to assess decadal variability of the AMOC. This modeling study introduces a new AMOC index (called AMOCSV) at 26°N that combines the Florida Straits transport, the Ekman transport, and the southward geostrophic Sverdrup transport. The main hypothesis in this study is that the upper midocean geostrophic transport calculated using the RAPID array is also wind-driven and can be approximated by the geostrophic Sverdrup transport at interannual and longer time scales. This index is expected to reflect variations in the AMOC at interannual to decadal time scales. This estimate of the surface branch of the AMOC can be constructed as long as reliable measurements are available for the Gulf Stream and for wind stress. To test the reliability of the AMOCSV on interannual and longer time scales, two different numerical simulations are used: a forced and a coupled simulation. Using these simulations the AMOCSV captures a substantial fraction of the AMOC variability and is in good agreement with the AMOC transport at 26°N on both interannual and decadal time scales. These results indicate that it might be possible to extend the observation-based AMOC at 26°N back to the 1980s.

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Neil M. Taylor, David M. L. Sills, John M. Hanesiak, Jason A. Milbrandt, Craig D. Smith, Geoff S. Strong, Susan H. Skone, Patrick J. McCarthy, and Julian C. Brimelow

Severe thunderstorms are a common occurrence in summer on the Canadian prairies, with a large number originating along the Alberta, Canada, foothills, just east of the Rocky Mountains. Most of these storms move eastward to affect the Edmonton–Calgary corridor, one of the most densely populated and fastest-growing regions in Canada. Previous studies in the United States, Europe, and Canada have stressed the importance of mesoscale features in thunderstorm development. However, such processes cannot be adequately resolved using operational observation networks in many parts of Canada. Current conceptual models for severe storm outbreaks in Alberta were developed almost 20 years ago and do not focus explicitly on mesoscale boundaries that are now known to be important for thunderstorm development.

The Understanding Severe Thunderstorms and Alber ta Boundary Layers Experiment (UNSTABLE) is a field and modeling study aiming to improve our understanding of the processes associated with the initiation of severe thunderstorms, to refine associated conceptual models, and to assess the ability of convectivescale NWP models to simulate relevant physical processes. As part of UNSTABLE in 2008, Environment Canada and university scientists conducted a pilot field experiment over the Alberta foothills to investigate mesoscale processes associated with the development of severe thunderstorms. Networks of fixed and mobile surface and upper-air instrumentation provided observations of the atmospheric boundary layer at a level of detail never before seen in this region. Preliminary results include the most complete documentation of a dryline in Canada and an analysis of variability in boundary layer evolution across adjacent forest and crop vegetation areas. Convective-scale NWP simulations suggest that although additional information on convective mode may be provided, there is limited benefit overall to downscaling to smaller grid spacing without assimilation of mesoscale observations.

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