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  1. Abstract

    The evolution of tropical sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in response to greenhouse warming is of great societal and scientific interest. Most state‐of‐the‐art climate models predict a mean “El Niño‐like” warming pattern by century‐end, characterized by greater warming over the Pacific cold tongue compared to the western warm pool. However, it is unclear which proposed mechanism dominates in this response. Here, we present partially coupled abrupt CO2doubling experiments in which surface wind stress and shortwave heating are overridden to values from a control simulation. Contrary to previous studies, we find that experiments with overriding of surface wind stress exhibit only 58% of the full reduction in east‐west SST contrast. When both surface wind stress and shortwave flux are overridden, only 34% of the full reduction remains, controlled by spatially‐varying evaporative cooling. These results underscore the importance of Bjerknes and shortwave feedbacks in the tropical Pacific SST response to global warming.

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  2. Abstract

    During the last ice age, the western United States was covered by large lakes, sustained partly by higher levels of precipitation. Increased rainfall was driven by the atmospheric circulation associated with the presence of large North American ice sheets, yet Pleistocene lakes generally reached their highstands not at glacial maximum but during deglaciation. Prior modeling studies, however, showed nearly monotonic drying since the last glacial maximum. Here I show that iTraCE, a new transient climate simulation of the last deglaciation, reproduces a robust peak in winter rainfall over the Great Basin near 16 ka. The simulated peak is driven by a transient strengthening and southward shift of the midlatitude jet. While meltwater forcing is an important driver of changes to the North Pacific Jet, changing orbital conditions and rising atmospheric CO2also shift the jet south and contribute to wetter conditions over the western US during deglaciation.

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  3. Abstract

    Over its multibillion‐year history, the Earth has experienced a wide range of climates. The long‐term climate is controlled by the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, which is regulated by marine sequestration through chemical weathering. This chemical weathering sink is strongly linked to the distribution and composition of the continents. However, the effect of continental distribution has never been studied within a general framework. Here we show that the global weathering rate is sensitive to the size and shape of the continents, but is not well explained by the amount of land in the tropics. We construct synthetic continental configurations and use an ensemble of global climate model simulations to isolate the expected effect of continental arrangement on weathering and carbon burial. Runoff patterns are complex, sensitive to detailed features of continental geometry, and poorly predicted by continental latitude. These results help explain the long‐term variability and irregularity of Earth's climate.

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  4. Abstract Westerly wind bursts (WWBs) are anomalous surface wind gusts that play an important role in ENSO dynamics. Previous studies have identified several mechanisms that may be involved in the dynamics of WWBs. In particular, many have examined the importance of atmospheric deep convection to WWBs, including convection due to tropical cyclones, equatorial waves, and the Madden Julian Oscillation. Still, the WWB mechanism is not yet fully understood. In this study, we investigate the location of atmospheric convection which leads to WWBs and the role of positive feedbacks involving surface evaporation. We find that disabling surface flux feedbacks a few days before a WWB peaks does not weaken the event, arguing against local surface flux feedbacks serving as a WWB growth mechanism on individual events. On the other hand, directly suppressing convection by inhibiting latent heat release or eliminating surface evaporation rapidly weakens a WWB. By selectively suppressing convection near or further away from the equator, we find that convection related to off-equatorial cyclonic vortices is most important to equatorial WWB winds, while on-equator convection is unimportant. Despite strong resemblance of WWB wind patterns to the Gill response to equatorial heating, our findings indicate that equatorial convection is not necessary for WWBs to develop. Our conclusions are consistent with the idea that tropical cyclones, generally occurring more than 5° away from the equator, may be responsible for the majority of WWBs. 
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  5. Abstract

    The early‐to mid‐Pliocene (5.3–3 Ma), characterized by warmer temperatures and similar CO2concentrations to present day, is considered a useful analog for future warming scenarios. Geological evidence suggests that during the Pliocene, many modern‐day desert regions received higher levels of rainfall and supported large perennial lakes and wetter vegetation types. These wetter conditions have been difficult to reconcile with model predictions of 21st century drying over most subtropical land regions. Using an atmospheric General Circulation Model, we show that underestimates of Pliocene rainfall over certain areas in models may be related to insufficient sea surface temperature (SST) warmth simulated over relatively local eastern boundary current regions. When SSTs off the coast of California are raised to more closely match some proxy reconstructions, rainfall increases over much of adjacent western North America. Over the southwestern USA, this increased rainfall is mainly due to a convergent monsoonal circulation that develops over late boreal summer. A smaller wintertime increase in precipitation also occurs due to differences in rainfall associated with midlatitude cyclones. Wetter land conditions are expected to weaken upwelling‐favorable coastal winds, so that increased rainfall caused by coastal SST warming suggests a positive feedback that could help sustain wet, Pliocene‐like conditions.

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  6. Abstract

    Current global warming scenarios suggest surface temperatures may attain warmth last seen during periods of the early‐to mid‐Pliocene (5.3–3 Ma). Pliocene proxy reconstructions suggest sea surface temperatures 3–9°C warmer than today along midlatitude coastal upwelling sites. Recent climate modeling efforts focused on the mid‐Piacenzian period showed a good model‐data fit over midlatitude upwelling regions, but did not attempt to reproduce proxy records of early‐Pliocene warmth. Evidence also suggests that subtropical continents were wetter then; we show that warm coastal SSTs can be explained via such wetter land conditions near the upwelling sites. Using a global atmospheric model, we show that introducing idealized wetter conditions over subtropical continents leads to reductions in upwelling‐favorable wind events by weakening the land‐sea surface pressure gradient. The resulting weaker coastal upwelling of cold deep water can help explain the inferred warm coastal temperatures.

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  7. Abstract

    Westerly wind bursts (WWBs) are brief, anomalously westerly winds in the tropical Pacific that play a role in the dynamics of ENSO through their forcing of ocean Kelvin waves. They have been associated with atmospheric phenomena such as tropical cyclones, the MJO, and convectively coupled Rossby waves, yet their basic mechanism is not yet well understood. We study WWBs using an aquaplanet general circulation model, and find that eastward-propagating convective heating plays a key role in the generation of model WWBs, consistent with previous studies. Furthermore, wind-induced surface heat exchange (WISHE) acts on a short time scale of about two days to dramatically amplify the model WWB winds near the peak of the event. On the other hand, it is found that radiation feedbacks (i.e., changes in the net radiative anomalies accompanying westerly wind bursts) are not essential for the development of WWBs, and act as a weak negative feedback on WWBs and their associated convection. Similarly, sensible surface heat flux anomalies are not found to have an effect on the development of model WWBs.

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