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  1. 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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  2. 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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  3. 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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