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  1. 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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  2. Abstract

    Global radiative feedbacks have been found to vary in global climate model (GCM) simulations. Atmospheric GCMs (AGCMs) driven with historical patterns of sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and sea ice concentrations produce radiative feedbacks that trend toward more negative values, implying low climate sensitivity, over recent decades. Freely evolving coupled GCMs driven by increasing CO2 produce radiative feedbacks that trend toward more positive values, implying increasing climate sensitivity, in the future. While this time variation in feedbacks has been linked to evolving SST patterns, the role of particular regions has not been quantified. Here, a Green’s function is derived from a suite of simulations within an AGCM (NCAR’s CAM4), allowing an attribution of global feedback changes to surface warming in each region. The results highlight the radiative response to surface warming in ascent regions of the western tropical Pacific as the dominant control on global radiative feedback changes. Historical warming from the 1950s to 2000s preferentially occurred in the western Pacific, yielding a strong global outgoing radiative response at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) and thus a strongly negative global feedback. Long-term warming in coupled GCMs occurs preferentially in tropical descent regions and in high latitudes, where surface warmingmore »yields small global TOA radiation change but large global surface air temperature change, and thus a less-negative global feedback. These results illuminate the importance of determining mechanisms of warm pool warming for understanding how feedbacks have varied historically and will evolve in the future.

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  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 28, 2022
  5. As a step towards understanding the fundamental drivers of polar climate change, we evaluate contributions to polar warming and its seasonal and hemispheric asymmetries in Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 6 (CMIP6) as compared with CMIP5. CMIP6 models broadly capture the observed pattern of surface- and winter-dominated Arctic warming that has outpaced both tropical and Antarctic warming in recent decades. For both CMIP5 and CMIP6, CO 2 quadrupling experiments reveal that the lapse-rate and surface albedo feedbacks contribute most to stronger warming in the Arctic than the tropics or Antarctic. The relative strength of the polar surface albedo feedback in comparison to the lapse-rate feedback is sensitive to the choice of radiative kernel, and the albedo feedback contributes most to intermodel spread in polar warming at both poles. By separately calculating moist and dry atmospheric heat transport, we show that increased poleward moisture transport is another important driver of Arctic amplification and the largest contributor to projected Antarctic warming. Seasonal ocean heat storage and winter-amplified temperature feedbacks contribute most to the winter peak in warming in the Arctic and a weaker winter peak in the Antarctic. In comparison with CMIP5, stronger polar warming in CMIP6 results from a larger surfacemore »albedo feedback at both poles, combined with less-negative cloud feedbacks in the Arctic and increased poleward moisture transport in the Antarctic. However, normalizing by the global-mean surface warming yields a similar degree of Arctic amplification and only slightly increased Antarctic amplification in CMIP6 compared to CMIP5.« less
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. Ensembles of climate model simulations are commonly used to separate externally forced climate change from internal climate variability. However, much of the information gained from running large ensembles is lost in traditional methods of data reduction such as linear trend analysis or large scale spatial averaging. This paper demonstrates a pattern recognition method (forced pattern filtering) that extracts patterns of externally forced climate change from large ensembles and identifies the forced climate response with up to 10 times fewer ensemble members than simple ensemble averaging. It is particularly effective at filtering out spatially coherent modes of internal variability (e.g., El Ni˜no, North Atlantic Oscillation), which would otherwise alias into estimates of regional responses to forcing. This method is used to identify forced climate responses within the 40-member Community Earth System Model (CESM) large ensemble, including an El-Ni˜no-like response to volcanic eruptions and forced trends in the North Atlantic Oscillation. The ensemble-based estimate of the forced response is used to test statistical methods for isolating the forced response from a single realization (i.e., individual ensemble members). Low-frequency pattern filtering is found to effectively identify the forced response within individual ensemble members and is applied to the HadCRUT4 reconstruction of observed temperatures,more »whereby it identifies slow components of observed temperature changes that are consistent with the expected effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gas and aerosol forcing.« less