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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 28, 2023
  2. Abstract Thermodynamical and dynamical aspects of the climate system response to an-thropogenic forcing are often considered in two distinct frameworks: The former in the context of the forcing-feedback framework; the latter in the context of eddy-mean flow feedbacks and large-scale thermodynamic constraints. Here we use experiments with the dynamical core of a general circulation model (GCM) to provide insights into the relationships between these two frameworks. We first demonstrate that the climate feedbacks and climate sensitivity in a dynamical core model are determined by its prescribed thermal relaxation timescales. We then perform two experiments: One that explores the relationships between the thermal relaxation timescale and the climatological circulation; and a second that explores the relationships between the thermal relaxation timescale and the circulation response to a global warming-like forcing perturbation. The results indicate that shorter relaxation timescales (i.e., lower climate sensitivities in the context of a dynamical core model) are associated with 1) a more vigorous large-scale circulation, including increased thermal diffusivity and stronger and more poleward storm tracks and eddy-driven jets and 2) a weaker poleward displacement of the storm tracks and eddy-driven jets in response to the global warming-like forcing perturbation. Interestingly, the circulation response to the forcingmore »perturbation effectively disappears when the thermal relaxation timescales are spatially uniform, suggesting that the circulation response to homogeneous forcing requires spatial inhomogeneities in the local feedback parameter. Implications for anticipating the circulation response to global warming and thermodynamic constraints on the circulation are discussed.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 9, 2023
  3. Abstract

    In a recent paper, we argued that ocean dynamics increase the variability of midlatitude sea surface temperatures (SSTs) on monthly to interannual time scales, but act to damp lower-frequency SST variability over broad midlatitude regions. Here, we use two configurations of a simple stochastic climate model to provide new insights into this important aspect of climate variability. The simplest configuration includes the forcing and damping of SST variability by observed surface heat fluxes only, and the more complex configuration includes forcing and damping by ocean processes, which are estimated indirectly from monthly observations. It is found that the simple model driven only by the observed surface heat fluxes generally produces midlatitude SST power spectra that are tooredcompared to observations. Including ocean processes in the model reduces this discrepancy bywhiteningthe midlatitude SST spectra. In particular, ocean processes generally increase the SST variance on <2-yr time scales and decrease it on >2-yr time scales. This happens because oceanic forcing increases the midlatitude SST variance across many time scales, but oceanic damping outweighs oceanic forcing on >2-yr time scales, particularly away from the western boundary currents. The whitening of midlatitude SST variability by ocean processes also operates in NCAR’s Community Earth Systemmore »Model (CESM). That is, midlatitude SST spectra are generally redder when the same atmospheric model is coupled to a slab rather than dynamically active ocean model. Overall, the results suggest that forcing and damping by ocean processes play essential roles in driving midlatitude SST variability.

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  4. Abstract

    Observations reveal two distinct patterns of atmospheric variability associated with wintertime variations in midlatitude sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the North Pacific sector: 1) a pattern of atmospheric circulation anomalies that peaks 2–3 weeks prior to large SST anomalies in the western North Pacific that is consistent with “atmospheric forcing” of the SST field, and 2) a pattern that lags SST anomalies in the western North Pacific by several weeks that is consistent with the “atmospheric response” to the SST field. Here we explore analogous lead–lag relations between the atmospheric circulation and western North Pacific SST anomalies in two sets of simulations run on the NCAR Community Earth System Model version 1 (CESM1): 1) a simulation run on a fully coupled version of CESM1 and 2) a simulation forced with prescribed, time-evolving SST anomalies over the western North Pacific region. Together, the simulations support the interpretation that the observed lead–lag relationships between western North Pacific SST anomalies and the atmospheric circulation reveal the patterns of atmospheric variability that both force and respond to midlatitude SST anomalies. The results provide numerical evidence that SST variability over the western North Pacific has a demonstrable effect on the large-scale atmospheric circulation throughoutmore »the North Pacific sector.

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    Abstract Understanding the role of the ocean in climate variability requires first understanding the role of ocean dynamics in the ocean mixed layer and thus sea surface temperature variability. However, key aspects of the spatially and temporally varying contributions of ocean dynamics to such variability remain unclear. Here, the authors quantify the contributions of ocean dynamical processes to mixed layer temperature variability on monthly to multiannual time scales across the globe. To do so, they use two complementary but distinct methods: 1) a method in which ocean heat transport is estimated directly from a state-of-the-art ocean state estimate spanning 1992–2015 and 2) a method in which it is estimated indirectly from observations between 1980–2017 and the energy budget of the mixed layer. The results extend previous studies by providing quantitative estimates of the role of ocean dynamics in mixed layer temperature variability throughout the globe, across a range of time scales, in a range of available measurements, and using two different methods. Consistent with previous studies, both methods indicate that the ocean-dynamical contribution to mixed layer temperature variance is largest over western boundary currents, their eastward extensions, and regions of equatorial upwelling. In contrast to previous studies, the results suggestmore »that ocean dynamics reduce the variance of Northern Hemisphere mixed layer temperatures on time scales longer than a few years. Hence, in the global mean, the fractional contribution of ocean dynamics to mixed layer temperature variability decreases at increasingly low frequencies. Differences in the magnitude of the ocean dynamical contribution based on the two methods highlight the critical need for improved and continuous observations of the ocean mixed layer.« less
  6. Abstract Baroclinic waves drive both regional variations in weather and large-scale variability in the extratropical general circulation. They generally do not exist in isolation, but rather often form into coherent wave packets that propagate to the east via a mechanism called downstream development. Downstream development has been widely documented and explored. Here we document a novel but also key aspect of baroclinic waves: the downstream suppression of baroclinic activity that occurs in the wake of eastward propagating disturbances. Downstream suppression is apparent not only in the Southern Hemisphere storm track as shown in previous work, but also in the North Pacific and North Atlantic storm tracks. It plays an essential role in driving subseasonal periodicity in extratropical eddy activity in both hemispheres, and gives rise to the observed quiescence of the North Atlantic storm track 1–2 weeks following pronounced eddy activity in the North Pacific sector. It is argued that downstream suppression results from the anomalously low baroclinicity that arises as eastward propagating wave packets convert potential to kinetic energy. In contrast to baroclinic wave packets, which propagate to the east at roughly the group velocity in the upper troposphere, the suppression of baroclinic activity propagates eastward at a slowermore »rate that is comparable to that of the lower to midtropospheric flow. The results have implications for understanding subseasonal variability in the extratropical troposphere of both hemispheres.« less