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  1. Abstract

    An idealized aquaplanet moist global atmospheric model with realistic radiative transfer but no clouds and no convective parameterization is found to possess multiple climate equilibria. When forced symmetrically about the equator, in some cases the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) migrates to an off‐equatorial equilibrium position. Mechanism denial experiments prescribing relative humidity imply that radiation‐circulation coupling is essential to this instability. The cross‐equatorial asymmetry occurs only when the underlying slab ocean is sufficiently deep and the atmosphere's spectral dynamical core is sufficiently coarse (∼T170 or less with our control parameters). At higher resolutions, initializing with an asymmetric state indicates metastability with very slow (thousands of days) return to hemispheric symmetry. There is some sensitivity to the model timestep, which affects the time required to transition to the asymmetric state, with little effect on the equilibrium climate. The instability is enhanced when the planetary boundary layer scheme favors deeper layers or by a prescribed meridional heat transport away from the equator within the slab. The instability is not present when the model is run with a convective parameterization scheme commonly utilized in idealized moist models. We argue that the instability occurs when the asymmetric heating associated with a spontaneous ITCZ shift drives a circulation that rises poleward of the perturbed ITCZ. These results serve as a warning of the potential for instability and non‐uniqueness of climate that may complicate studies with idealized models of the tropical response to perturbations in forcing.

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  2. The seasonal rainy phase observed in many places across Earth is shaping the climate and is being changed by global climate trends.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  3. Abstract Tropical areas with mean upward motion—and as such the zonal-mean intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ)—are projected to contract under global warming. To understand this process, a simple model based on dry static energy and moisture equations is introduced for zonally symmetric overturning driven by sea surface temperature (SST). Processes governing ascent area fraction and zonal mean precipitation are examined for insight into Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) simulations. Bulk parameters governing radiative feedbacks and moist static energy transport in the simple model are estimated from the AMIP ensemble. Uniform warming in the simple model produces ascent area contraction and precipitation intensification—similar to observations and climate models. Contributing effects include stronger water vapor radiative feedbacks, weaker cloud-radiative feedbacks, stronger convection-circulation feedbacks, and greater poleward moisture export. The simple model identifies parameters consequential for the inter-AMIP-model spread; an ensemble generated by perturbing parameters governing shortwave water vapor feedbacks and gross moist stability changes under warming tracks inter-AMIP-model variations with a correlation coefficient ∼0.46. The simple model also predicts the multimodel mean changes in tropical ascent area and precipitation with reasonable accuracy. Furthermore, the simple model reproduces relationships among ascent area precipitation, ascent strength, and ascent area fraction observed in AMIP models. A substantial portion of the inter-AMIP-model spread is traced to the spread in how moist static energy and vertical velocity profiles change under warming, which in turn impact the gross moist stability in deep convective regions—highlighting the need for observational constraints on these quantities. Significance Statement A large rainband straddles Earth’s tropics. Most, but not all, climate models predict that this rainband will shrink under global warming; a few models predict an expansion of the rainband. To mitigate some of this uncertainty among climate models, we build a simpler model that only contains the essential physics of rainband narrowing. We find several interconnected processes that are important. For climate models, the most important process is the efficiency with which clouds move heat and humidity out of rainy regions. This efficiency varies among climate models and appears to be a primary reason for why climate models do not agree on the rate of rainband narrowing. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024