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  1. Previously, we showed that the nuclear import receptor Importin-9 wraps around the H2A-H2B core to chaperone and transport it from the cytoplasm to the nucleus. However, unlike most nuclear import systems where RanGTP dissociates cargoes from their importins, RanGTP binds stably to the Importin-9•H2A-H2B complex, and formation of the ternary RanGTP•Importin-9•H2A-H2B complex facilitates H2A-H2B release to the assembling nucleosome. It was unclear how RanGTP and the cargo H2A-H2B can bind simultaneously to an importin, and how interactions of the three components position H2A-H2B for release. Here, we show cryo-EM structures of Importin-9•RanGTP and of its yeast homolog Kap114, including Kap114•RanGTP, Kap114•H2A-H2B, and RanGTP•Kap114•H2A-H2B, to explain how the conserved Kap114 binds H2A-H2B and RanGTP simultaneously and how the GTPase primes histone transfer to the nucleosome. In the ternary complex, RanGTP binds to the N-terminal repeats of Kap114 in the same manner as in the Kap114/Importin-9•RanGTP complex, and H2A-H2B binds via its acidic patch to the Kap114 C-terminal repeats much like in the Kap114/Importin-9•H2A-H2B complex. Ran binds to a different conformation of Kap114 in the ternary RanGTP•Kap114•H2A-H2B complex. Here, Kap114 no longer contacts the H2A-H2B surface proximal to the H2A docking domain that drives nucleosome assembly, positioning it for transfer to the assembling nucleosome or to dedicated H2A-H2B chaperones in the nucleus.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 18, 2024
  2. Abstract Observational evidence of two extratropical pathways to forcing tropical convective disturbances is documented through a statistical analysis of satellite-derived OLR and ERA5 reanalysis. The forcing mechanism and the resulting disturbances are found to strongly depend on the structure of the background zonal wind. Although Rossby wave propagation is prohibited in easterlies, modeling studies have shown that extratropical forcing can still excite equatorial waves through resonance between the tropics and extratropics. Here this “remote” forcing pathway is investigated for the first time in the context of convectively coupled Kelvin waves over the tropical Pacific during northern summer. The extratropical forcing is manifested by eddy momentum flux convergence that arises when extratropical eddies propagate into the subtropics and encounter their critical line. This nonlinear forcing has similar wavenumbers and frequencies with Kelvin waves and excites them by projecting onto their meridional eigenstructure in zonal wind, as a form of resonance. This resonance is also evidenced by a momentum budget analysis, which reveals the nonlinear forcing term is essential for maintenance of the waves, while the remaining linear terms are essential for propagation. In contrast, the “local” pathway of extratropical forcing entails the presence of a westerly duct during northern winter that permits Rossby waves to propagate into the equatorial east Pacific, while precluding any sort of resonance with Kelvin waves due to Doppler shifting effects. The intruding disturbances primarily excite tropical “cloud plumes” through quasigeostrophic forcing, while maintaining their extratropical nature. This study demonstrates the multiple roles of the extratropics in forcing in tropical circulations and illuminates how tropical–extratropical interactions and extratropical basic states can provide be a source of predictability at the S2S time scale. Significance Statement This study seeks to understand how circulations in the midlatitudes excite the weather systems in the tropics. Results show that the mechanisms, as well as the types of tropical weather systems excited, are strongly dependent on the mean large-scale wind structure. In particular, when the large-scale wind blows from east to west, a special type of eastward-moving tropical weather system, the Kelvin wave, is excited owing to its resonance with remote eastward-moving weather systems in the extratropics. On the contrary, when the average wind blows from west to east, midlatitude systems are observed to intrude into the lower latitudes and directly force tropical convection, the cloud plumes, while maintaining their extratropical nature. These results speak to how the midlatitudes can excite distinct types of tropical weather systems under different climatological wind regimes. Understanding these tropical weather systems and their interactions with the midlatitudes may ultimately help to improve predictions of weather beyond 2 weeks. 
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  3. Abstract

    The composite structure of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) has long been known to feature pronounced Rossby gyres in the subtropical upper troposphere, whose existence can be interpreted as the forced response to convective heating anomalies in the presence of a subtropical westerly jet. The question of interest here is whether these forced gyre circulations have any subsequent effects on divergence patterns in the tropics and the Kelvin-mode component of the MJO. A nonlinear spherical shallow water model is used to investigate how the introduction of different background jet profiles affects the model’s steady-state response to an imposed MJO-like stationary thermal forcing. Results show that a stronger jet leads to a stronger Kelvin-mode response in the tropics up to a critical jet speed, along with stronger divergence anomalies in the vicinity of the forcing. To understand this behavior, additional calculations are performed in which a localized vorticity forcing is imposed in the extratropics, without any thermal forcing in the tropics. The response is once again seen to include pronounced equatorial Kelvin waves, provided the jet is of sufficient amplitude. A detailed analysis of the vorticity budget reveals that the zonal-mean zonal wind shear plays a key role in amplifying the Kelvin-mode divergent winds near the equator, with the effects of nonlinearities being of negligible importance. These results help to explain why the MJO tends to be strongest during boreal winter when the Indo-Pacific jet is typically at its strongest.

    Significance Statement

    The MJO is a planetary-scale convectively coupled equatorial disturbance that serves as a primary source of atmospheric predictability on intraseasonal time scales (30–90 days). Due to its dominance and spontaneous recurrence, the MJO has a significant global impact, influencing hurricanes in the tropics, storm tracks, and atmosphere blocking events in the midlatitudes, and even weather systems near the poles. Despite steady improvements in subseasonal-to-seasonal (S2S) forecast models, the MJO prediction skill has still not reached its maximum potential. The root of this challenge is partly due to our lack of understanding of how the MJO interacts with the background mean flow. In this work, we use a simple one-layer atmospheric model with idealized heating and vorticity sources to understand the impact of the subtropical jet on the MJO amplitude and its horizontal structure.

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  4. Abstract

    An energy budget combining atmospheric moist static energy (MSE) and upper ocean heat content (OHC) is used to examine the processes impacting day-to-day convective variability in the tropical Indian and western Pacific Oceans. Feedbacks arising from atmospheric and oceanic transport processes, surface fluxes, and radiation drive the cyclical amplification and decay of convection around suppressed and enhanced convective equilibrium states, referred to as shallow and deep convective discharge–recharge (D–R) cycles, respectively. The shallow convective D–R cycle is characterized by alternating enhancements of shallow cumulus and stratocumulus, often in the presence of extensive cirrus clouds. The deep convective D–R cycle is characterized by sequential increases in shallow cumulus, congestus, narrow deep precipitation, wide deep precipitation, a mix of detached anvil and altostratus and altocumulus, and once again shallow cumulus cloud types. Transitions from the shallow to deep D–R cycle are favored by a positive “column process” feedback, while discharge of convective instability and OHC by mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) contributes to transitions from the deep to shallow D–R cycle. Variability in the processes impacting MSE is comparable in magnitude to, but considerably more balanced than, variability in the processes impacting OHC. Variations in the quantity of atmosphere–ocean coupled static energy (MSE + OHC) result primarily from atmospheric and oceanic transport processes, but are mainly realized as changes in OHC. MCSs are unique in their ability to rapidly discharge both lower-tropospheric convective instability and OHC.

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  5. Abstract

    This study examines thermodynamic–convection coupling in observations and reanalyses, and attempts to establish process-level benchmarks needed to guide model development. Thermodynamic profiles obtained from the NOAA Integrated Global Radiosonde Archive, COSMIC-1 GPS radio occultations, and several reanalyses are examined alongside Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission precipitation estimates. Cyclical increases and decreases in a bulk measure of lower-tropospheric convective instability are shown to be coupled to the cyclical amplification and decay of convection. This cyclical flow emerges from conditional-mean analysis in a thermodynamic space composed of two components: a measure of “undiluted” instability, which neglects lower-free-tropospheric (LFT) entrainment, and a measure of the reduction of instability by LFT entrainment. The observational and reanalysis products examined share the following qualitatively robust characterization of these convective cycles: increases in undiluted instability tend to occur when the LFT is less saturated, are followed by increases in LFT saturation and precipitation rate, which are then followed by decreases in undiluted instability. Shallow, convective, and stratiform precipitation are coupled to these cycles in a manner consistent with meteorological expectations. In situ and satellite observations differ systematically from reanalyses in their depictions of lower-tropospheric temperature and moisture variations throughout these convective cycles. When using reanalysis thermodynamic fields, these systematic differences cause variations in lower-free-tropospheric saturation deficit to appear less influential in determining the strength of convection than is suggested by observations. Disagreements among reanalyses, as well as between reanalyses and observations, pose significant challenges to process-level assessments of thermodynamic–convection coupling.

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  6. Abstract

    Boreal‐wintertime hindcasts in the Unified Forecast System with the tropics nudged toward reanalysis improve United States (US) West Coast precipitation forecasts at Weeks 3–4 lead times when compared to those without nudging. To diagnose the origin of these improvements, a multivariate k‐means clustering method is used to group hindcasts into subsets by their initial conditions. One cluster characterized by an initially strong Aleutian Low demonstrates larger improvements at Weeks 3–4 with nudging compared to the others. The greater improvements with nudging for this cluster are related to model errors in simulating the interaction between the Aleutian Low and the teleconnection patterns associated with the Madden‐Julian oscillation (MJO) and El Niño‐Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Improving forecasts of tropical intraseasonal precipitation, especially during early MJO phases under non‐cold ENSO, may be important for producing better Weeks 3–4 precipitation forecasts for the US West Coast.

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  7. The exponential increase in precipitation with increasing column saturation fraction (CSF) is used to investigate the role of moisture in convective coupling. This simple empirical relationship between precipitation and CSF is shown to capture nearly all MJO-related variability in TRMM precipitation, ~80% of equatorial Rossby wave–related variability, and ~75% of east Pacific easterly wave–related variability. In contrast, this empirical relationship only captures roughly half of TRMM precipitation variability associated with Kelvin waves, African easterly waves, and mixed Rossby–gravity waves, suggesting coupling mechanisms other than moisture are playing leading roles in these phenomena. These latter phenomena have strong adiabatically forced vertical motions that could reduce static stability and convective inhibition while simultaneously moistening, creating a more favorable convective environment. Cross-spectra of precipitation and column-integrated dry static energy show enhanced coherence and an out-of-phase relationship in the Kelvin wave, mixed Rossby–gravity wave, and eastward inertio-gravity wave bands, supporting this narrative. The cooperative modulation of precipitation by moisture and temperature anomalies is shown to shorten the convective adjustment time scale (i.e., time scale by which moisture and precipitation are relaxed toward their “background” state) of these phenomena. Speeding the removal of moisture anomalies relative to that of temperature anomalies may allow the latter to assume a more important role in driving moist static energy fluctuations, helping promote the gravity wave character of these phenomena.

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  8. Realistically representing the multiscale interactions between moisture and tropical convection remains an ongoing challenge for weather prediction and climate models. In this study, we revisit the relationship between precipitation and column saturation fraction (CSF) by investigating their tendencies in CSF–precipitation space using satellite and radar observations, as well as reanalysis. A well-known, roughly exponential increase in precipitation occurs as CSF increases above a “critical point,” which acts as an attractor in CSF–precipitation space. Each movement away from and subsequent return toward the attractor results in a small net change of the coupled system, causing it to evolve in a cyclical fashion around the attractor. This cyclical evolution is characterized by shallow and convective precipitation progressively moistening the environment and strengthening convection, stratiform precipitation progressively weakening convection, and drying in the nonprecipitating and lightly precipitation regime. This behavior is evident across a range of spatiotemporal scales, suggesting that shortcomings in model representation of the joint evolution of convection and large-scale moisture will negatively impact a broad range of spatiotemporal scales. Novel process-level diagnostics indicate that several models, all implementing versions of the Zhang–McFarlane deep convective parameterization, exhibit unrealistic coupling between column moisture and convection.

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