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Creators/Authors contains: "Lintner, Benjamin R."

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  1. Abstract

    The Earth’s climate system is a classical example of a multiscale, multiphysics dynamical system with an extremely large number of active degrees of freedom, exhibiting variability on scales ranging from micrometers and seconds in cloud microphysics, to thousands of kilometers and centuries in ocean dynamics. Yet, despite this dynamical complexity, climate dynamics is known to exhibit coherent modes of variability. A primary example is the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the dominant mode of interannual (3–5 yr) variability in the climate system. The objective and robust characterization of this and other important phenomena presents a long-standing challenge in Earth system science, the resolution of which would lead to improved scientific understanding and prediction of climate dynamics, as well as assessment of their impacts on human and natural systems. Here, we show that the spectral theory of dynamical systems, combined with techniques from data science, provides an effective means for extracting coherent modes of climate variability from high-dimensional model and observational data, requiring no frequency prefiltering, but recovering multiple timescales and their interactions. Lifecycle composites of ENSO are shown to improve upon results from conventional indices in terms of dynamical consistency and physical interpretability. In addition, the role of combination modes between ENSO and the annual cycle in ENSO diversity is elucidated.

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  2. Understanding multiscale rainfall variability in the South Pacific convergence zone (SPCZ), a southeastward-oriented band of precipitating deep convection in the South Pacific, is critical for both the human and natural systems dependent on its rainfall, and for interpreting similar off-equatorial diagonal convection zones around the globe. A k-means clustering method is applied to daily austral summer (December–February) Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite rainfall to extract representative spatial patterns of rainfall over the SPCZ region for the period 1998–2013. For a k = 4 clustering, pairs of clusters differ predominantly via spatial translation of the SPCZ diagonal, reflecting either warm or cool phases of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Within each of these ENSO phase pairs, one cluster exhibits intense precipitation along the SPCZ while the other features weakened rainfall. Cluster temporal behavior is analyzed to investigate higher-frequency forcings (e.g., the Madden–Julian oscillation and synoptic-scale disturbances) that trigger deep convection where SSTs are sufficiently warm. Pressure-level winds and specific humidity from the Climate Forecast System Reanalysis are composited with respect to daily cluster assignment to investigate differences between active and quiescent SPCZ conditions to reveal the conditions supporting enhanced or suppressed SPCZ precipitation, such as low-level poleward moisture transport from the equator. Empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) of TRMM precipitation are computed to relate the “modal view” of SPCZ variability associated with the EOFs to the “state view” associated with the clusters. Finally, the cluster number is increased to illustrate the change in TRMM rainfall patterns as additional degrees of freedom are permitted.

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  3. Abstract. The continental tropics play a leading role in the terrestrial energy,water, and carbon cycles. Land–atmosphere interactions are integral in theregulation of these fluxes across multiple spatial and temporal scales overtropical continents. We review here some of the important characteristics oftropical continental climates and how land–atmosphere interactions regulatethem. Along with a wide range of climates, the tropics manifest a diversearray of land–atmosphere interactions. Broadly speaking, in tropicalrainforest climates, light and energy are typically more limiting thanprecipitation and water supply for photosynthesis and evapotranspiration (ET),whereas in savanna and semi-arid climates, water is the critical regulatorof surface fluxes and land–atmosphere interactions. We discuss the impact ofthe land surface, how it affects shallow and deep clouds, and how theseclouds in turn can feed back to the surface by modulating surface radiationand precipitation. Some results from recent research suggest that shallowclouds may be especially critical to land–atmosphere interactions. On theother hand, the impact of land-surface conditions on deep convection appearsto occur over larger, nonlocal scales and may be a more relevantland–atmosphere feedback mechanism in transitional dry-to-wet regions andclimate regimes. 
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  4. Abstract

    Drought conditions significantly impact human and natural systems in the Tropics. Here, multiple observational and reanalysis products and ensembles of simulations from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) are analyzed with respect to drought areal extent over tropical land regions and its past and future relationships to the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). CMIP5 models forced with prescribed sea surface temperatures compare well to observations in capturing the present day time evolution of the fraction of tropical land area experiencing drought conditions and the scaling of drought area and ENSO, that is, increasing tropical drought area with increasing ENSO warm phase (El Niño) strength. The ensemble of RCP8.5 simulations suggests lower end‐of‐the‐century El Niño strength‐tropical drought area sensitivity. At least some of this lower sensitivity is attributable to atmosphere‐ocean coupling, as historic coupled model simulations also exhibit lower sensitivity compared to the observations.

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  5. Abstract

    Tropical ecologists have long recognized rainfall as the key climate filter shaping tropical ecosystem structure and function across space and time. Still, tropical ecologists have historically had a limited toolkit for characterizing rainfall, largely relying on simple metrics like mean annual precipitation (MAP) and dry season length to characterize rainfall regimes that vary along many more dimensions. Here, we review methods for quantifying dimensions of rainfall variability on multiple time scales, with a focus on ecological applications of these methods. We also discuss key considerations for tropical ecologists looking to use rainfall metrics that better align with hypothesized biological or ecological mechanisms or that more effectively describe rainfall variability in the systems we study and provide a toolkit (R scripts and gridded datasets) to do so. We argue that incorporating more sophisticated approaches to quantify rainfall variability into study design and statistical analyses will enhance our understanding of past, ongoing, and future changes in tropical ecosystems.

    Abstract in Spanish is available with online material.

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  6. The South Pacific convergence zone (SPCZ) exhibits well-known spatial displacements in response to anomalous sea surface temperatures (SSTs) associated with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Although dynamic and thermodynamic changes during ENSO events are consistent with observed SPCZ shifts, explanations for these displacements have been largely qualitative. This study applies a theoretical framework based on generalizing arguments about the relationship between the zonal-mean intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) and atmospheric energy transport (AET) to 2D, permitting quantification of SPCZ displacements during ENSO. Using either resolved atmospheric energy fluxes or estimates of column-integrated moist energy sources, this framework predicts well the observed SPCZ shifts during ENSO, at least when anomalous ENSO-region SSTs are relatively small. In large-amplitude ENSO events, such as the 1997/98 El Niño, the framework breaks down because of the large change in SPCZ precipitation intensity. The AET framework permits decomposition of the ENSO forcing into various components, such as column radiative heating versus surface turbulent fluxes, and local versus remote contributions. Column energy source anomalies in the equatorial central and eastern Pacific dominate the SPCZ shift. Furthermore, although the radiative flux anomaly is larger than the surface turbulent flux anomaly in the SPCZ region, the radiative flux anomaly, which can be viewed as a feedback on the ENSO forcing, accounts for slightly less than half of SPCZ precipitation anomalies during ENSO. This study also introduces an idealized analytical model used to illustrate AET anomalies during ENSO and to obtain a scaling for the SPCZ response to an anomalous equatorial energy source.

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  7. Abstract

    Understanding vulnerabilities of continental precipitation to changing climatic conditions is of critical importance to society at large. Terrestrial precipitation is fed by moisture originating as evaporation from oceans and from recycling of water evaporated from continental sources. In this study, continental precipitation and evaporation recycling processes in the Earth system model GFDL-ESM2G are shown to be consistent with estimates from two different reanalysis products. The GFDL-ESM2G simulations of historical and future climate also show that values of continental moisture recycling ratios were systematically higher in the past and will be lower in the future. Global mean recycling ratios decrease 2%–3% with each degree of temperature increase, indicating the increased importance of oceanic evaporation for continental precipitation. Theoretical arguments for recycling changes stem from increasing atmospheric temperatures and evaporative demand that drive increases in evaporation over oceans that are more rapid than those over land as a result of terrestrial soil moisture limitations. Simulated recycling changes are demonstrated to be consistent with these theoretical arguments. A simple prototype describing this theory effectively captures the zonal mean behavior of GFDL-ESM2G. Implications of such behavior are particularly serious in rain-fed agricultural regions where crop yields will become increasingly soil moisture limited.

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