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  1. Abstract Total poleward atmospheric heat transport (AHT) is similar in both magnitude and latitudinal structure between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. These similarities occur despite more major mountain ranges in the Northern Hemisphere, which help create substantial stationary eddy AHT that is largely absent in the Southern Hemisphere. However, this hemispheric difference in stationary eddy AHT is compensated by hemispheric differences in other dynamic components of AHT so that total AHT is similar between hemispheres. To understand how AHT compensation occurs, we add midlatitude mountain ranges in two different general circulation models that are otherwise configured as aquaplanets. Even when midlatitude mountains are introduced, total AHT is nearly invariant. We explore the near invariance of total AHT in response to orography through dynamic, energetic, and diffusive perspectives. Dynamically, orographically induced changes to stationary eddy AHT are compensated by changes in both transient eddy and mean meridional circulation AHT. This creates an AHT system with three interconnected components that resist large changes to total AHT. Energetically, the total AHT can only change if the top-of-the-atmosphere net radiation changes at the equator-to-pole scale. Midlatitude orography does not create large-enough changes in the equator-to-pole temperature gradient to alter outgoing longwave radiation enough tomore »substantially change total AHT. In the zonal mean, changes to absorbed shortwave radiation also often compensate for changes in outgoing longwave radiation. Diffusively, the atmosphere smooths anomalies in temperature and humidity created by the addition of midlatitude orography, such that total AHT is relatively invariant. Significance Statement The purpose of this study is to better understand how orography influences heat transport in the atmosphere. Enhancing our understanding of how atmospheric heat transport works is important, as heat transport helps moderate Earth’s surface temperatures and influences precipitation patterns. We find that the total amount of atmospheric heat transport does not change in the presence of mountains in the midlatitudes. Different pieces of the heat transport change, but they change in compensatory ways, such that the total heat transport remains roughly constant.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 28, 2022
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 31, 2023
  4. 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 amore »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.« less
  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 27, 2023
  6. 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) Seasmore »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.« less
  7. Abstract

    We present idealized simulations to explore how the shape of eastern and western continental boundaries along the Atlantic Ocean influences the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). We use a state-of-the art ocean–sea ice model (MOM6 and SIS2) with idealized, zonally symmetric surface forcing and a range of idealized continental configurations with a large, Pacific-like basin and a small, Atlantic-like basin. We perform simulations with five coastline geometries along the Atlantic-like basin that range from coastlines that are straight to coastlines that are shaped like the coasts of the American and African continents. Changing the Atlantic basin coastline shape influences AMOC strength in a manner distinct from simply increasing basin width: widening the basin while maintaining straight coastlines leads to a 10-Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106m3s−1) increase in AMOC strength, whereas widening the basin with the geometry of the American and African continents leads to a 6-Sv increase in AMOC strength, despite both cases representing the same average basin-width increase relative to a control case. The structure of AMOC changes are different between these two cases as well: a more realistic basin geometry results in a shoaled AMOC while widening the basin with straight boundaries deepens AMOC. We test themore »influence of the shape of the both boundaries independently and find that AMOC is more sensitive to the American coastline while the African coastline impacts the abyssal circulation. We also find that AMOC strength and depth scales well with basin-scale meridional density difference, even with different Atlantic basin geometries, illuminating a robust physical link between AMOC and the North Atlantic western boundary density gradient.

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  8. Abstract

    Arctic surface warming under greenhouse gas forcing peaks in winter and reaches its minimum during summer in both observations and model projections. Many mechanisms have been proposed to explain this seasonal asymmetry, but disentangling these processes remains a challenge in the interpretation of general circulation model (GCM) experiments. To isolate these mechanisms, we use an idealized single-column sea ice model (SCM) that captures the seasonal pattern of Arctic warming. SCM experiments demonstrate that as sea ice melts and exposes open ocean, the accompanying increase in effective surface heat capacity alone can produce the observed pattern of peak warming in early winter (shifting to late winter under increased forcing) by slowing the seasonal heating rate, thus delaying the phase and reducing the amplitude of the seasonal cycle of surface temperature. To investigate warming seasonality in more complex models, we perform GCM experiments that individually isolate sea ice albedo and thermodynamic effects under CO2forcing. These also show a key role for the effective heat capacity of sea ice in promoting seasonal asymmetry through suppressing summer warming, in addition to precluding summer climatological inversions and a positive summer lapse-rate feedback. Peak winter warming in GCM experiments is further supported by a positivemore »winter lapse-rate feedback, due to cold initial surface temperatures and strong surface-trapped warming that are enabled by the albedo effects of sea ice alone. While many factors contribute to the seasonal pattern of Arctic warming, these results highlight changes in effective surface heat capacity as a central mechanism supporting this seasonality.

    Significance Statement

    Under increasing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases, the strongest Arctic warming has occurred during early winter, but the reasons for this seasonal pattern of warming are not well understood. We use experiments in both simple and complex models with certain sea ice processes turned on and off to disentangle potential drivers of seasonality in Arctic warming. When sea ice melts and open ocean is exposed, surface temperatures are slower to reach the warm-season maximum and slower to cool back down below freezing in early winter. We find that this process alone can produce the observed pattern of maximum Arctic warming in early winter, highlighting a fundamental mechanism for the seasonality of Arctic warming.

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  9. Abstract Increasing concentrations of CO 2 in the atmosphere influence climate both through CO 2 ’s role as a greenhouse gas and through its impact on plants. Plants respond to atmospheric CO 2 concentrations in several ways that can alter surface energy and water fluxes and thus surface climate, including changes in stomatal conductance, water use, and canopy leaf area. These plant physiological responses are already embedded in most Earth system models, and a robust literature demonstrates that they can affect global-scale temperature. However, the physiological contribution to transient warming has yet to be assessed systematically in Earth system models. Here this gap is addressed using carbon cycle simulations from phases 5 and 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) to isolate the radiative and physiological contributions to the transient climate response (TCR), which is defined as the change in globally averaged near-surface air temperature during the 20-yr window centered on the time of CO 2 doubling relative to preindustrial CO 2 concentrations. In CMIP6 models, the physiological effect contributes 0.12°C ( σ : 0.09°C; range: 0.02°–0.29°C) of warming to the TCR, corresponding to 6.1% of the full TCR ( σ : 3.8%; range: 1.4%–13.9%). Moreover, variation in themore »physiological contribution to the TCR across models contributes disproportionately more to the intermodel spread of TCR estimates than it does to the mean. The largest contribution of plant physiology to CO 2 -forced warming—and the intermodel spread in warming—occurs over land, especially in forested regions.« less