Search Results

You are looking at 1 - 10 of 73 items for

  • Author or Editor: Thomas Delworth x
  • Refine by Access: All Content x
Clear All Modify Search
Thomas Delworth
and
Syukuro Manabe

Abstract

The influence of land surface processes on near-surface atmospheric variability on seasonal and interannual time scales is studied using output from two integrations of a general circulation model. In the first experiment of 50 years duration, soil moisture is predicted, thereby taking into consideration interactions between the surface moisture budget and the atmosphere. In the second experiment, of 25 years duration, the seasonal cycle of soil moisture is prescribed at each grid point based upon the results of the first integration, thereby suppressing thew interactions. The same seasonal cycle of soil moisture is prescribed for each year of the second integration. Differences in atmospheric variability between the two integrations are due to interactions between the surface moisture budget and the atmosphere.

Analyses of monthly data indicate that the surface moisture budget interacts with the atmosphere in such a way as to lengthen the time scales of fluctuations of near-surface relative humidity and temperature, as well as to increase the total variability of the atmosphere. During summer months at middle latitudes, the persistence of near-surface relative humidity, as measured by correlations of monthly mean relative humidity between successive months, increases from near zero in the experiment with prescribed soil moisture to as large as 0.6 in the experiment with interactive soil moisture, which corresponds to an e-folding time of approximately two months. The standard deviation of monthly mean relative humidity during summer is substantially larger in the experiment with interactive soil moisture than in the experiment with prescribed soil moisture. Surface air temperature exhibits similar changes, but of smaller magnitude.

Soil wetness influence the atmosphere by altering the partitioning of the outgoing energy flux at the surface into latent and sensible heat components. Fluctuations of soil moisture result in large variations in these fluxes, and thus significant variations in near surface relative humidity and temperature. Because anomalies of monthly mean soil moisture are characterized by seasonal and interannual time scales, they create persistent anomalous fluxes of latent and sensible heat, thereby increasing the persistence of near-surface atmospheric relative humidity and temperature.

Full access
Thomas L. Delworth

Abstract

The primary mode of sea surface temperature variability in the North Atlantic on interannual timescales during winter is examined in a coupled ocean–atmosphere model. The model, developed at die Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, is global in domain with realistic geography and a seasonal cycle of insulation. Analyses performed on a 1000-year integration of this model show that this mode is characterized by zonal bands of SST anomalies in the North Atlantic and bears a distinct resemblance to observational results. The largest anomalies in the model are to the southeast of Newfoundland.

The model SST variations appear to be related to a north–south dipole in the atmospheric 500-mb geopotential height field, which resembles the North Atlantic oscillation and the Western Atlantic pattern. Analyses are presented that show that this mode of SST variability is primarily driven by perturbations to the surface heat fluxes, which are largely governed by atmospheric variability. Changes in model ocean circulation also contribute to this mode of variability but appear to be of secondary importance.

Additional integrations are analyzed to examine the above conclusion. The same atmospheric model used in the above integration was coupled to a 50-m slab ocean and integrated for 500 years. The primary mode of SST variability in this model, in which there were no effects of ocean dynamics, resembles the primary mode from the coupled model, strengthening the conclusion that the surface fluxes are the primary mechanism generating this oceanic variability. One notable difference between the two models is related to the presence of deep vertical mixing at high latitudes in the model with a fully dynamic ocean. An additional 500-year integration of the atmospheric model with a prescribed seasonal cycle of SSTs lends further support to this conclusion, as do additional diagnostic calculations in which a 50-m slab ocean was forced by the time series of surface fluxes from both the prescribed SST and fully coupled model.

Full access
Thomas L. Delworth
and
Keith W. Dixon

Abstract

Most projections of greenhouse gas–induced climate change indicate a weakening of the thermohaline circulation (THC) in the North Atlantic in response to increased freshening and warming in the subpolar region. These changes reduce high-latitude upper-ocean density and therefore weaken the THC. Using ensembles of numerical experiments with a coupled ocean–atmosphere model, it is found that this weakening could be delayed by several decades in response to a sustained upward trend in the Arctic/North Atlantic oscillation during winter, such as has been observed over the last 30 years. The stronger winds over the North Atlantic associated with this trend extract more heat from the ocean, thereby cooling and increasing the density of the upper ocean and thus opposing the previously described weakening of the THC. This result is of particular importance if the positive trend in the Arctic/North Atlantic oscillation is a response to increasing greenhouse gases, as has been recently suggested.

Full access
Vikram M. Mehta
and
Thomas Delworth

Abstract

Numerous analyses of relatively short (25–30 years in length) time series of the observed surface temperature of the tropical Atlantic Ocean have indicated the possible existence of decadal timescale variability. It was decided to search for such variability in 100-yr time series of sea surface temperature (SST) measured aboard ships and available in the recently published Global Ocean Surface Temperature Atlas (GOSTA). Fourier and singular spectrum analyses of the GOSTA SST time series averaged over 11 subregions, each approximately 1×106 km2 in area, show that pronounced quasi-oscillatory decadal (∼8–20 yr) and multidecadal (∼30–40 yr) timescale variability exists in the GOSTA dataset over the tropical Atlantic.

Motivated by the above results, SST variability was investigated in a 200-yr integration of a global model of the coupled oceanic and atmospheric general circulations developed at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). The second 100 yr of SST in the coupled model's tropical Atlantic region were analyzed with a variety of techniques. Analyses of SST time series, averaged over approximately the same subregions as the GOSTA time series, showed that the GFDL SST anomalies also undergo pronounced quasi-oscillatory decadal and multidecadal variability but at somewhat shorter timescales than the GOSTA SST anomalies. Further analyses of the horizontal structures of the decadal timescale variability in the GFDL coupled model showed the existence of two types of variability in general agreement with results of the GOSTA SST time series analyses. One type, characterized by timescales between 8 and 11 yr, has high spatial coherence within each hemisphere but not between the two hemispheres of the tropical Atlantic. A second type, characterized by timescales between 12 and 20 yr, has high spatial coherence between the two hemispheres. The second type of variability is considerably weaker than the first. As in the GOSTA time series, the multidecadal variability in the GFDL SST time series has approximately opposite phases between the tropical North and South Atlantic Oceans. Empirical orthogonal function analyses of the tropical Atlantic SST anomalies revealed a north-south bipolar pattern as the dominant pattern of decadal variability. It is suggested that the bipolar pattern can he interpreted as decadal variability of the interhemispheric gradient of SST anomalies.

The decadal and multidecadal timescale variability of the tropical Atlantic SST, both in the actual and in the GFDL model, stands out significantly above the background “red noise” and is coherent within each of the time series, suggesting that specific sets of processes may be responsible for the choice of the decadal and multidecadal timescales. Finally, it must be emphasized that the GFDL coupled ocean-atmosphere model generates the decadal and multidecadal timescale variability without any externally applied force, solar or lunar, at those timescales.

Full access
Benjamin O. Johnson
and
Thomas L. Delworth

Abstract

The role of the Gulf of California (GoC) in the North American monsoon (NAM) is investigated using a global climate model with 50-km horizontal atmospheric resolution and prescribed SSTs. Specifically, two 135-yr simulations are compared to quantify the influence of the GoC on the NAM: in the first simulation a realistic representation of the GoC is incorporated, while in the second simulation the GoC is replaced with land surface. The results suggest that the GoC has a significant impact on circulation, with cooler surface air temperatures and lower surface friction allowing for south-southeasterly surface flow along the entire length of the GoC, in turn increasing low-level moisture fluxes into the NAM region. Cooler air over the GoC also leads to lower heights at 700–500 hPa, with a corresponding cyclonic moisture flux anomaly, further increasing moisture fluxes into the NAM region. Correspondingly, precipitation is substantially higher over the NAM region and even east of the Continental Divide in areas such as New Mexico and the U.S. Great Plains. July/August precipitation with a realistic GoC is generally 25%–50% greater in northwestern Mexico than the land-filled case, with precipitation 50% greater in much of the southwestern United States. Due to enhanced surface evaporation, areas with increased precipitation also tend to have lower surface temperatures, higher sea level pressure, and lower mid- to upper-tropospheric heights, thus altering the large-scale circulation. These results highlight the importance of the GoC in the NAM and demonstrate the necessity of resolving the GoC in climate simulations.

Significance Statement

This paper seeks to improve our understanding of the North American monsoon, an important moisture source in the relatively arid region of northwest Mexico and the Southwest United States. Specifically, we investigate the role of the Gulf of California: a long, narrow sea surrounded by elevated topography within the North American monsoon region, oriented roughly southeast–northwest. The results suggest the Gulf of California is an important component of the North American monsoon system. We find that the Gulf of California acts to enhance moisture transports into the North American monsoon, leading to substantially higher precipitation over a large region. Therefore, the Gulf of California should be carefully considered in climate simulations and future projections, especially given it is often not well resolved.

Free access
Honghai Zhang
and
Thomas L. Delworth

Abstract

Regional hydroclimate changes on decadal time scales contain substantial natural variability. This presents a challenge for the detection of anthropogenically forced hydroclimate changes on these spatiotemporal scales because the signal of anthropogenic changes is modest, compared to the noise of natural variability. However, previous studies have shown that this signal-to-noise ratio can be greatly improved in a large model ensemble where each member contains the same signal but different noise. Here, using multiple state-of-the-art large ensembles from two climate models, the authors quantitatively assess the detectability of anthropogenically caused decadal shifts in precipitation-minus-evaporation (PmE) mean state against natural variability, focusing on North America during 2000–50. Anthropogenic forcing is projected to cause detectable (signal larger than noise) shifts in PmE mean state relative to the 1950–99 climatology over 50%–70% of North America by 2050. The earliest detectable signals include, during November–April, a moistening over northeastern North America and a drying over southwestern North America and, during May–October, a drying over central North America. Different processes are responsible for these signals. Changes in submonthly transient eddy moisture fluxes account for the northeastern moistening and central drying, while monthly atmospheric circulation changes explain the southwestern drying. These model findings suggest that despite the dominant role of natural internal variability on decadal time scales, anthropogenic shifts in PmE mean state can be detected over most of North America before the middle of the current century.

Full access
Thomas L. Delworth
and
Fanrong Zeng

Abstract

The impact of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) on the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and large-scale climate is assessed using simulations with three different climate models. Perturbation experiments are conducted in which a pattern of anomalous heat flux corresponding to the NAO is added to the model ocean. Differences between the perturbation experiments and a control illustrate how the model ocean and climate system respond to the NAO. A positive phase of the NAO strengthens the AMOC by extracting heat from the subpolar gyre, thereby increasing deep-water formation, horizontal density gradients, and the AMOC. The flux forcings have the spatial structure of the observed NAO, but the amplitude of the forcing varies in time with distinct periods varying from 2 to 100 yr. The response of the AMOC to NAO variations is small at short time scales but increases up to the dominant time scale of internal AMOC variability (20–30 yr for the models used). The amplitude of the AMOC response, as well as associated oceanic heat transport, is approximately constant as the time scale of the forcing is increased further. In contrast, the response of other properties, such as hemispheric temperature or Arctic sea ice, continues to increase as the time scale of the forcing becomes progressively longer. The larger response is associated with the time integral of the anomalous oceanic heat transport at longer time scales, combined with an increased impact of radiative feedback processes. It is shown that NAO fluctuations, similar in amplitude to those observed over the last century, can modulate hemispheric temperature by several tenths of a degree.

Full access
Liping Zhang
and
Thomas L. Delworth

Abstract

The impact of climate change on the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) is studied using a fully coupled climate model. The model results show that the PDO has a similar spatial pattern in altered climates, but its amplitude and time scale of variability change in response to global warming or cooling. In response to global warming the PDO amplitude is significantly reduced, with a maximum decrease over the Kuroshio–Oyashio Extension (KOE) region. This reduction appears to be associated with a weakened meridional temperature gradient in the KOE region. In addition, reduced variability of North Pacific wind stress, partially due to reduced air–sea feedback, also helps to weaken the PDO amplitude by reducing the meridional displacements of the subtropical and subpolar gyre boundaries. In contrast, the PDO amplitude increases in response to global cooling.

In the control simulations the model PDO has an approximately bidecadal peak. In a warmer climate the PDO time scale becomes shorter, changing from ~20 to ~12 yr. In a colder climate the time scale of the PDO increases to ~34 yr. Physically, global warming (cooling) enhances (weakens) ocean stratification. The increased (decreased) ocean stratification acts to increase (reduce) the phase speed of internal Rossby waves, thereby altering the time scale of the simulated PDO.

Full access
Liping Zhang
and
Thomas L. Delworth

Abstract

North Pacific decadal oceanic and atmospheric variability is examined in a suite of coupled climate models developed at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). The models have ocean horizontal resolutions ranging from 1° to 0.1° and atmospheric horizontal resolutions ranging from 200 to 50 km. In all simulations the dominant pattern of decadal-scale sea surface temperature (SST) variability over the North Pacific is similar to the observed Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO). Simulated SST anomalies in the Kuroshio–Oyashio Extension (KOE) region exhibit a significant spectral peak at approximately 20 yr.

Sensitivity experiments are used to show that (i) the simulated PDO mechanism involves extratropical air–sea interaction and oceanic Rossby wave propagation; (ii) the oscillation can exist independent of interactions with the tropics, but such interactions can enhance the PDO; and (iii) ocean–atmosphere feedback in the extratropics is critical for establishing the approximately 20-yr time scale of the PDO. The spatial pattern of the PDO can be generated from atmospheric variability that occurs independently of ocean–atmosphere feedback, but the existence of a spectral peak depends on active air–sea coupling. The specific interdecadal time scale is strongly influenced by the propagation speed of oceanic Rossby waves in the subtropical and subpolar gyres, as they provide a delayed feedback to the atmosphere. The simulated PDO has a realistic association with precipitation variations over North America, with a warm phase of the PDO generally associated with positive precipitation anomalies over regions of the western United States. The seasonal dependence of this relationship is also reproduced by the model.

Full access
Kirsten L. Findell
and
Thomas L. Delworth

Abstract

Climate model simulations run as part of the Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) Drought Working Group initiative were analyzed to determine the impact of three patterns of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies on drought and pluvial frequency and intensity around the world. The three SST forcing patterns include a global pattern similar to the background warming trend, a pattern in the Pacific, and a pattern in the Atlantic. Five different global atmospheric models were forced by fixed SSTs to test the impact of these SST anomalies on droughts and pluvials relative to a climatologically forced control run.

The five models generally yield similar results in the locations of drought and pluvial frequency changes throughout the annual cycle in response to each given SST pattern. In all of the simulations, areas with an increase in the mean drought (pluvial) conditions tend to also show an increase in the frequency of drought (pluvial) events. Additionally, areas with more frequent extreme events also tend to show higher intensity extremes. The cold Pacific anomaly increases drought occurrence in the United States and southern South America and increases pluvials in Central America and northern and central South America. The cold Atlantic anomaly increases drought occurrence in southern Central America, northern South America, and central Africa and increases pluvials in central South America. The warm Pacific and Atlantic anomalies generally lead to reversals of the drought and pluvial increases described with the corresponding cold anomalies. More modest impacts are seen in other parts of the world. The impact of the trend pattern is generally more modest than that of the two other anomaly patterns.

Full access