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Vineel Yettella, Jeffrey B. Weiss, Jennifer E. Kay, and Angeline G. Pendergrass


Climate variability and its response to increasing greenhouse gases are important considerations for impacts and adaptation. Modeling studies commonly assess projected changes in variability in terms of changes in the variance of climate variables. Despite the distant and impactful covariations that climate variables can exhibit, the covariance response has received much less attention. Here, a novel ensemble framework is developed that facilitates a unified assessment of the response of the regional variances and covariances of a climate variable to imposed external forcings and their time of emergence from an unforced climate state.

Illustrating the framework, the response of variability and covariability of land and ocean temperatures is assessed in the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble under historical and RCP8.5 forcing. The results reveal that land temperature variance emerges from its preindustrial state in the 1950s and, by the end of the twenty-first century, grows to 1.5 times its preindustrial level. Demonstrating the importance of covariances for variability projections, the covariance between land and ocean temperature is considerably enhanced by 2100, reaching 1.4 times its preindustrial estimate. The framework is also applied to assess changes in monthly temperature variability associated with the Arctic region and the Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes. Consistent with previous studies and coinciding with sea ice loss, Arctic temperature variance decreases in most months, emerging from its preindustrial state in the late twentieth century. Overall, these results demonstrate the utility of the framework in enabling a comprehensive assessment of variability and its response to external climate forcings.

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Jennifer E. Kay, Casey Wall, Vineel Yettella, Brian Medeiros, Cecile Hannay, Peter Caldwell, and Cecilia Bitz


A large, long-standing, and pervasive climate model bias is excessive absorbed shortwave radiation (ASR) over the midlatitude oceans, especially the Southern Ocean. This study investigates both the underlying mechanisms for and climate impacts of this bias within the Community Earth System Model, version 1, with the Community Atmosphere Model, version 5 [CESM1(CAM5)]. Excessive Southern Ocean ASR in CESM1(CAM5) results in part because low-level clouds contain insufficient amounts of supercooled liquid. In a present-day atmosphere-only run, an observationally motivated modification to the shallow convection detrainment increases supercooled cloud liquid, brightens low-level clouds, and substantially reduces the Southern Ocean ASR bias. Tuning to maintain global energy balance enables reduction of a compensating tropical ASR bias. In the resulting preindustrial fully coupled run with a brighter Southern Ocean and dimmer tropics, the Southern Ocean cools and the tropics warm. As a result of the enhanced meridional temperature gradient, poleward heat transport increases in both hemispheres (especially the Southern Hemisphere), and the Southern Hemisphere atmospheric jet strengthens. Because northward cross-equatorial heat transport reductions occur primarily in the ocean (80%), not the atmosphere (20%), a proposed atmospheric teleconnection linking Southern Ocean ASR bias reduction and cooling with northward shifts in tropical precipitation has little impact. In summary, observationally motivated supercooled liquid water increases in shallow convective clouds enable large reductions in long-standing climate model shortwave radiation biases. Of relevance to both model bias reduction and climate dynamics, quantifying the influence of Southern Ocean cooling on tropical precipitation requires a model with dynamic ocean heat transport.

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