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  1. Abstract

    Given the key role that atmospheric heat transport plays in Earth's climate system, efforts to document its changes over the satellite era are valuable. Clark et al. (2022, calculated trends in atmospheric heat transport among four reanalysis data sets and found substantial disagreements between data sets. However, after accounting for the lack of mass‐conservation in reanalysis data sets, we find much smaller magnitude trends, with much better agreement among reanalyses. This highlights the importance of mass corrections when calculating atmospheric heat transport.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 16, 2024
  2. Abstract

    We investigate the linear trends in meridional atmospheric heat transport (AHT) since 1980 in atmospheric reanalysis datasets, coupled climate models, and atmosphere-only climate models forced with historical sea surface temperatures. Trends in AHT are decomposed into contributions from three components of circulation: (i) transient eddies, (ii) stationary eddies, and (iii) the mean meridional circulation. All reanalyses and models agree on the pattern of AHT trends in the Southern Ocean, providing confidence in the trends in this region. There are robust increases in transient-eddy AHT magnitude in the Southern Ocean in the reanalyses, which are well replicated by the atmosphere-only models, while coupled models show smaller magnitude trends. This suggests that the pattern of sea surface temperature trends contributes to the transient-eddy AHT trends in this region. In the tropics, we find large differences between mean-meridional circulation AHT trends in models and the reanalyses, which we connect to discrepancies in tropical precipitation trends. In the Northern Hemisphere, we find less evidence of large-scale trends and more uncertainty, but note several regions with mismatches between models and the reanalyses that have dynamical explanations. Throughout this work we find strong compensation between the different components of AHT, most notably in the Southern Ocean where transient-eddy AHT trends are well compensated by trends in the mean-meridional circulation AHT, resulting in relatively small total AHT trends. This highlights the importance of considering AHT changes holistically, rather than each AHT component individually.

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  3. Evaporation adds moisture to the atmosphere, while condensation removes it. Condensation also adds thermal energy to the atmosphere, which must be removed from the atmosphere by radiative cooling. As a result of these two processes, there is a net flow of energy driven by surface evaporation adding energy and radiative cooling removing energy from the atmosphere. Here, we calculate the implied heat transport of this process to find the atmospheric heat transport in balance with the surface evaporation. In modern-day Earth-like climates, evaporation varies strongly between the equator and the poles, while the net radiative cooling in the atmosphere is nearly meridionally uniform, and as a consequence, the heat transport governed by evaporation is similar to the total poleward heat transport of the atmosphere. This analysis is free from cancellations between moist and dry static energy transports, which greatly simplifies the interpretation of atmospheric heat transport and its relationship to the diabatic heating and cooling that governs the atmospheric heat transport. We further demonstrate, using a hierarchy of models, that much of the response of atmospheric heat transport to perturbations, including increasing CO 2 concentrations, can be understood from the distribution of evaporation changes. These findings suggest that meridional gradients in surface evaporation govern atmospheric heat transport and its changes. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 20, 2024
  4. Abstract The response of zonal-mean precipitation minus evaporation ( P − E ) to global warming is investigated using a moist energy balance model (MEBM) with a simple Hadley cell parameterization. The MEBM accurately emulates zonal-mean P − E change simulated by a suite of global climate models (GCMs) under greenhouse gas forcing. The MEBM also accounts for most of the intermodel differences in GCM P − E change and better emulates GCM P − E change when compared to the “wet-gets-wetter, dry-gets-drier” thermodynamic mechanism. The intermodel spread in P − E change is attributed to intermodel differences in radiative feedbacks, which account for 60%–70% of the intermodel variance, with smaller contributions from radiative forcing and ocean heat uptake. Isolating the intermodel spread of feedbacks to specific regions shows that tropical feedbacks are the primary source of intermodel spread in zonal-mean P − E change. The ability of the MEBM to emulate GCM P − E change is further investigated using idealized feedback patterns. A less negative and narrowly peaked feedback pattern near the equator results in more atmospheric heating, which strengthens the Hadley cell circulation in the deep tropics through an enhanced poleward heat flux. This pattern also increases gross moist stability, which weakens the subtropical Hadley cell circulation. These two processes in unison increase P − E in the deep tropics, decrease P − E in the subtropics, and narrow the intertropical convergence zone. Additionally, a feedback pattern that produces polar-amplified warming partially reduces the poleward moisture flux by weakening the meridional temperature gradient. It is shown that changes to the Hadley cell circulation and the poleward moisture flux are crucial for understanding the pattern of GCM P − E change under warming. Significance Statement Changes to the hydrological cycle over the twenty-first century are predicted to impact ecosystems and socioeconomic activities throughout the world. While it is broadly expected that dry regions will get drier and wet regions will get wetter, the magnitude and spatial structure of these changes remains uncertain. In this study, we use an idealized climate model, which assumes how energy is transported in the atmosphere, to understand the processes setting the pattern of precipitation and evaporation under global warming. We first use the idealized climate model to explain why comprehensive climate models predict different changes to precipitation and evaporation across a range of latitudes. We show this arises primarily from climate feedbacks, which act to amplify or dampen the amount of warming. Ocean heat uptake and radiative forcing play secondary roles but can account for a significant amount of the uncertainty in regions where ocean circulation influences the rate of warming. We further show that uncertainty in tropical feedbacks (mainly from clouds) affects changes to the hydrological cycle across a range of latitudes. We then show how the pattern of climate feedbacks affects how the patterns of precipitation and evaporation respond to climate change through a set of idealized experiments. These results show how the pattern of climate feedbacks impacts tropical hydrological changes by affecting the strength of the Hadley circulation and polar hydrological changes by affecting the transport of moisture to the high latitudes. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 15, 2024
  5. Abstract Despite substantial global mean warming, surface cooling has occurred in both the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean and the Southern Ocean over the past 40 years, influencing both regional climates and estimates of Earth’s climate sensitivity to rising greenhouse gases. While a tropical influence on the extratropics has been extensively studied in the literature, here we demonstrate that the teleconnection works in the other direction as well, with the southeast Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean exerting a strong influence on the tropical eastern Pacific. Using a slab ocean model, we find that the tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) response to an imposed Southern Ocean surface heat flux forcing is sensitive to the longitudinal location of that forcing, suggesting an atmospheric pathway associated with regional dynamics rather than reflecting a zonal-mean energetic constraint. The transient response shows that an imposed Southern Ocean cooling in the southeast Pacific sector first propagates into the tropics by mean-wind advection. Once tropical Pacific SSTs are perturbed, they then drive remote changes to atmospheric circulation in the extratropics that further enhance both Southern Ocean and tropical cooling. These results suggest a mutually interactive two-way teleconnection between the Southern Ocean and tropical Pacific through atmospheric circulations, and highlight potential impacts on the tropics from the extratropical climate changes over the instrumental record and in the future. 
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  6. Abstract

    The influence of climate feedbacks on regional hydrological changes under warming is poorly understood. Here, a moist energy balance model (MEBM) with a Hadley Cell parameterization is used to isolate the influence of climate feedbacks on changes in zonal‐mean precipitation‐minus‐evaporation (P − E) under greenhouse‐gas forcing. It is shown that cloud feedbacks act to narrow bands of tropicalP − Eand increaseP − Ein the deep tropics. The surface‐albedo feedback shifts the location of maximum tropicalP − Eand increasesP − Ein the polar regions. The intermodel spread in theP − Echanges associated with feedbacks arises mainly from cloud feedbacks, with the lapse‐rate and surface‐albedo feedbacks playing important roles in the polar regions. TheP − Echange associated with cloud feedback locking in the MEBM is similar to that of a climate model with inactive cloud feedbacks. This work highlights the unique role that climate feedbacks play in causing deviations from the “wet‐gets‐wetter, dry‐gets‐drier” paradigm.

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  7. Abstract

    The climate response to the Mt. Pinatubo volcanic eruption is analyzed using large ensembles of Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) historical simulations. In contrast to previous work, we find that standard measures of the global temperature response to volcanic forcing are not significantly correlated with climate sensitivity across models. Isolating the shortwave response due to non‐cloud effects does not improve the correlation with climate sensitivity. Earlier constraints on climate sensitivity based on the response to Mt. Pinatubo are consistent with having arisen by chance because of the small size of the ensembles used. Our results suggest that the response to Mt. Pinatubo cannot be used to constrain the climate sensitivity to increased greenhouse gas concentrations, as has been proposed, because the radiative feedbacks in response to volcanic eruptions are not well correlated with the feedbacks governing the long‐term response to greenhouse gas forcing.

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  8. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Atmospheric heat transport is an important piece of our climate system, yet we lack a complete theory for its magnitude or changes. Atmospheric dynamics and radiation play different roles in controlling the total atmospheric heat transport (AHT) and its partitioning into components associated with eddies and mean meridional circulations. This work focuses on two specific controls: a radiative one, namely atmospheric radiative temperature tendencies, and a dynamic one, the planetary rotation rate. We use an idealized gray radiation model to employ a novel framework to lock the radiative temperature tendency and total AHT to climatological values, even while the rotation rate is varied. This setup allows for a systematic study of the effects of radiative tendency and rotation rate on AHT. We find that rotation rate controls the latitudinal extent of the Hadley cell and the heat transport efficiency of eddies. Both the rotation rate and radiative tendency influence the strength of the Hadley cell and the strength of equator–pole energy differences that are important for AHT by eddies. These two controls do not always operate independently and can reinforce or dampen each other. In addition, we examine how individual AHT components, which vary with latitude, sum to a total AHT that varies smoothly with latitude. At slow rotation rates the mean meridional circulation is most important in ensuring total AHT varies smoothly with latitude, while eddies are most important at rotation rates similar to, and faster than, those of Earth. 
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  9. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Ocean heat transport (OHT) plays a key role in climate and its variability. Here, we identify modes of low-frequency North Atlantic OHT variability by applying a low-frequency component analysis (LFCA) to output from three global climate models. The first low-frequency component (LFC), computed using this method, is an index of OHT variability that maximizes the ratio of low-frequency variance (occurring at decadal and longer timescales) to total variance. Lead-lag regressions of atmospheric and ocean variables onto the LFC timeseries illuminate the dominant mechanisms controlling low-frequency OHT variability. Anomalous northwesterly winds from eastern North America over the North Atlantic act to increase upper ocean density in the Labrador Sea region, enhancing deep convection, which later increases OHT via changes in the strength of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). The strengthened AMOC carries warm, salty water into the subpolar gyre, reducing deep convection and weakening AMOC and OHT. This mechanism, where changes in AMOC and OHT are driven primarily by changes in Labrador Sea deep convection, holds not only in models where the climatological (i.e., time-mean) deep convection is concentrated in the Labrador Sea, but also in models where the climatological deep convection is concentrated in the Greenland-Iceland-Norwegian (GIN) Seas or the Irminger and Iceland Basins. These results suggest that despite recent observational evidence suggesting that the Labrador Sea plays a minor role in driving the climatological AMOC, the Labrador Sea may still play an important role in driving low-frequency variability in AMOC and OHT. 
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  10. Abstract

    Coupled global climate models (GCMs) generally fail to reproduce the observed sea‐surface temperature (SST) trend pattern since the 1980s. The model‐observation discrepancies may arise in part from the lack of realistic Antarctic ice‐sheet meltwater input in GCMs. Here we employ two sets of CESM1‐CAM5 simulations forced by anomalous Antarctic meltwater fluxes over 1980–2013 and through the 21st century. Both show a reduced global warming rate and an SST trend pattern that better resembles observations. The meltwater drives surface cooling in the Southern Ocean and the tropical southeast Pacific, in turn increasing low‐cloud cover and driving radiative feedbacks to become more stabilizing (corresponding to a lower effective climate sensitivity). These feedback changes can contribute as substantially as ocean heat uptake efficiency changes in reducing the global warming rate. Accurately projecting historical and future warming thus requires improved representation of Antarctic meltwater and its impacts.

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