skip to main content

Title: The Circulation Response to Volcanic Eruptions: The Key Roles of Stratospheric Warming and Eddy Interactions

Proxy data and observations suggest that large tropical volcanic eruptions induce a poleward shift of the North Atlantic jet stream in boreal winter. However, there is far from universal agreement in models on this effect and its mechanism, and the possibilities of a corresponding jet shift in the Southern Hemisphere or the summer season have received little attention. Using a hierarchy of simplified atmospheric models, this study examines the impact of stratospheric aerosol on the extratropical circulation over the annual cycle. In particular, the models allow the separation of the dominant shortwave (surface cooling) and longwave (stratospheric warming) impacts of volcanic aerosol. It is found that stratospheric warming shifts the jet poleward in both the summer and winter hemispheres. The experiments cannot definitively rule out the role of surface cooling, but they provide no evidence that it shifts the jet poleward. Further study with simplified models demonstrates that the response to stratospheric warming is remarkably generic and does not depend critically on the boundary conditions (e.g., the planetary wave forcing) or the atmospheric physics (e.g., the treatment of radiative transfer and moist processes). It does, however, fundamentally involve both zonal-mean and eddy circulation feedbacks. The time scales, seasonality, and structure more » of the response provide further insight into the mechanism, as well as its connection to modes of intrinsic natural variability. These findings have implications for the interpretation of comprehensive model studies and for postvolcanic prediction.

« less
 ;  ;  
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Journal of Climate
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 1101-1120
American Meteorological Society
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Atmospheric rivers (ARs), narrow intense moisture transport, account for much of the poleward moisture transport in midlatitudes. While studies have characterized AR features and the associated hydrological impacts in a warming climate in observations and comprehensive climate models, the fundamental dynamics for changes in AR statistics (e.g., frequency, length, width) are not well understood. Here we investigate AR response to global warming with a combination of idealized and comprehensive climate models. To that end, we developed an idealized atmospheric GCM with Earth-like global circulation and hydrological cycle, in which water vapor and clouds are modeled as passive tracers with simple cloud microphysics and precipitation processes. Despite the simplicity of model physics, it reasonably reproduces observed dynamical structures for individual ARs, statistical characteristics of ARs, and spatial distributions of AR climatology. Under climate warming, the idealized model produces robust AR changes similar to CESM large ensemble simulations under RCP8.5, including AR size expansion, intensified landfall moisture transport, and an increased AR frequency, corroborating previously reported AR changes under global warming by climate models. In addition, the latitude of AR frequency maximum shifts poleward with climate warming. Further analysis suggests the thermodynamic effect (i.e., an increase in water vapor) dominates themore »AR statistics and frequency changes while both the dynamic and thermodynamic effects contribute to the AR poleward shift. These results demonstrate that AR changes in a warming climate can be understood as passive water vapor and cloud tracers regulated by large-scale atmospheric circulation, whereas convection and latent heat feedback are of secondary importance.« less
  2. Abstract. It has been suggested that increased stratospheric sulfate aerosol loadings following large, low latitude volcanic eruptions can lead to wintertime warming over Eurasia through dynamical stratosphere–troposphere coupling. We here investigate the proposedconnection in the context of hypothetical future stratospheric sulfategeoengineering in the Geoengineering Large Ensemble simulations. In thosegeoengineering simulations, we find that stratospheric circulation anomalies that resemble the positive phase of the Northern Annular Mode in winter are a distinguishing climate response which is absent when increasing greenhouse gases alone are prescribed. This stratospheric dynamical response projects onto the positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation, leading to associated side effects of this climate intervention strategy, such as continental Eurasian warming and precipitation changes. Seasonality is a key signature of the dynamically driven surface response. We find an opposite response of the North Atlantic Oscillation in summer, when no dynamical role of the stratosphere is expected. The robustness of the wintertime forced response stands in contrast to previously proposed volcanic responses.
  3. Abstract. The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is known to modulate the strength and frequency of stratosphere-to-troposphere transport (STT) of ozone over the Pacific–North American region during late winter to early summer. Dynamical processes that have been proposed to account for this variability include variations in the amount of ozone in the lowermoststratosphere that is available for STT and tropospheric circulation-relatedvariations in the frequency and geographic distribution of individual STTevents. Here we use a large ensemble of Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model(WACCM) simulations (forced by sea-surface temperature (SST) boundaryconditions consistent with each phase of ENSO) to show that variability inlower-stratospheric ozone and shifts in the Pacific tropospheric jetconstructively contribute to the amount of STT of ozone in the NorthAmerican region during both ENSO phases. In terms of stratosphericvariability, ENSO drives ozone anomalies resembling the Pacific–NorthAmerican teleconnection pattern that span much of the lower stratospherebelow 50 hPa. These ozone anomalies, which dominate over other ENSO-drivenchanges in the Brewer–Dobson circulation (including changes due to both thestratospheric residual circulation and quasi-isentropic mixing), stronglymodulate the amount of ozone available for STT transport. As a result,during late winter (February–March), the stratospheric ozone response to theteleconnections constructively reinforces anomalous ENSO-jet-driven STT ofozone. However, as ENSO forcing weakens asmore »spring progresses into summer(April–June), the direct effects of the ENSO-jet-driven STT transportweaken. Nevertheless, the residual impacts of the teleconnections on theamount of ozone in the lower stratosphere persist, and these anomalies inturn continue to cause anomalous STT of ozone. These results should provehelpful for interpreting the utility of ENSO as a subseasonal predictor ofboth free-tropospheric ozone and the probability of stratospheric ozoneintrusion events that may cause exceedances in surface air qualitystandards.« less
  4. Abstract Previous studies showed that global cloud-radiative changes contribute half or more to the midlatitude atmospheric circulation response to global warming. Here, we investigate the relative importance of tropical, midlatitude, and polar cloud-radiative changes for the annual-mean, wintertime, and summertime circulation response across regions in AMIP-like simulations. To this end, we study global warming simulations from the ICON model run with the cloud-locking method and prescribed sea surface temperatures, which isolate the impact of changes in atmospheric cloud-radiative heating. Tropical cloud changes dominate the global cloud impact on the 850 hPa zonal wind, jet strength, and storm track responses across most seasons and regions. For the jet shift, a more diverse picture is found. In the annual mean and DJF, tropical and midlatitude cloud changes contribute substantially to the poleward jet shift in all regions. The poleward jet shift is further supported by polar cloud changes across the Northern Hemisphere but not in the Southern Hemisphere. In JJA, the impact of regional cloud changes on the jet position is small, consistent with an overall small jet shift during this season. The jet shift can be largely understood via the anomalous atmospheric cloud-radiative heating in the tropical and midlatitude upper troposphere.more »The circulation changes are broadly consistent with the influence of cloud-radiative changes on upper-tropospheric baroclinicity and thus the mean potential energy available for conversion into eddy kinetic energy. Our results help to explain the jet response to global warming and highlight the importance of tropical and midlatitude cloud-radiative changes for this response.« less
  5. Abstract. Anthropogenic aerosols (AAs) induce global and regionaltropospheric circulation adjustments due to the radiative energyperturbations. The overall cooling effects of AA, which mask a portion ofglobal warming, have been the subject of many studies but still have largeuncertainty. The interhemispheric contrast in AA forcing has also beendemonstrated to induce a major shift in atmospheric circulation. However,the zonal redistribution of AA emissions since start of the 20th century, with anotable decline in the Western Hemisphere (North America and Europe) and acontinuous increase in the Eastern Hemisphere (South Asia and East Asia),has received less attention. Here we utilize four sets of single-model initial-condition large-ensemblesimulations with various combinations of external forcings to quantify theradiative and circulation responses due to the spatial redistribution of AAforcing during 1980–2020. In particular, we focus on the distinct climateresponses due to fossil-fuel-related (FF) aerosols emitted from the Western Hemisphere (WH) versus the Eastern Hemisphere (EH). The zonal (west to east) redistribution of FF aerosol emission since the1980s leads to a weakening negative radiative forcing over the WHmid-to-high latitudes and an enhancing negative radiative forcing over theEH at lower latitudes. Overall, the FF aerosol leads to a northward shift of the Hadley cell and an equatorward shift of the Northernmore »Hemisphere (NH) jet stream. Here, two sets of regional FF simulations (Fix_EastFF1920and Fix_WestFF1920) are performed to separate the roles ofzonally asymmetric aerosol forcings. We find that the WH aerosol forcing,located in the extratropics, dominates the northward shift of the Hadley cell by inducing an interhemispheric imbalance in radiative forcing. On the other hand, the EH aerosol forcing, located closer to the tropics, dominates the equatorward shift of the NH jet stream. The consistent relationship between the jet stream shift and the top-of-atmosphere net solar flux (FSNTOA) gradient suggests that the latter serves as a rule-of-thumb guidance for the expected shift of the NH jet stream. The surface effect of EH aerosol forcing (mainly from low- to midlatitudes)is confined more locally and only induces weak warming over the northeastern Pacific and North Atlantic. In contrast, the WH aerosol reduction leads to a large-scale warming over NH mid-to-high latitudes that largely offsets the cooling over the northeastern Pacific due to EH aerosols. The simulated competing roles of regional aerosol forcings in drivingatmospheric circulation and surface temperature responses during the recentdecades highlight the importance of considering zonally asymmetric forcings(west to east) and also their meridional locations within the NH (tropicalvs. extratropical).« less