Publications

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2018
Shi, JR, Xie SP, Talley LD.  2018.  Evolving relative importance of the Southern Ocean and North Atlantic in anthropogenic ocean heat uptake. Journal of Climate. 31:7459-7479.   10.1175/jcli-d-18-0170.1   AbstractWebsite

Ocean uptake of anthropogenic heat over the past 15 years has mostly occurred in the Southern Ocean, based on Argo float observations. This agrees with historical simulations from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5), where the Southern Ocean (south of 30 degrees S) accounts for 72% +/- 28% of global heat uptake, while the contribution from the North Atlantic north of 30 degrees N is only 6%. Aerosols preferentially cool the Northern Hemisphere, and the effect on surface heat flux over the subpolar North Atlantic opposes the greenhouse gas (GHG) effect in nearly equal magnitude. This heat uptake compensation is associated with weakening (strengthening) of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) in response to GHG (aerosol) radiative forcing. Aerosols are projected to decline in the near future, reinforcing the greenhouse effect on the North Atlantic heat uptake. As a result, the Southern Ocean, which will continue to take up anthropogenic heat largely through the mean upwelling of water from depth, will be joined by increased relative contribution from the North Atlantic because of substantial AMOC slowdown in the twenty-first century. In the RCP8.5 scenario, the percentage contribution to global uptake is projected to decrease to 48% +/- 8% in the Southern Ocean and increase to 26% +/- 6% in the northern North Atlantic. Despite the large uncertainty in the magnitude of projected aerosol forcing, our results suggest that anthropogenic aerosols, given their geographic distributions and temporal trajectories, strongly influence the high-latitude ocean heat uptake and interhemispheric asymmetry through AMOC change.

2015
Xie, SP, Deser C, Vecchi GA, Collins M, Delworth TL, Hall A, Hawkins E, Johnson NC, Cassou C, Giannini A, Watanabe M.  2015.  Towards predictive understanding of regional climate change. Nature Climate Change. 5:921-930.   10.1038/nclimate2689   AbstractWebsite

Regional information on climate change is urgently needed but often deemed unreliable. To achieve credible regional climate projections, it is essential to understand underlying physical processes, reduce model biases and evaluate their impact on projections, and adequately account for internal variability. In the tropics, where atmospheric internal variability is small compared with the forced change, advancing our understanding of the coupling between long-term changes in upper-ocean temperature and the atmospheric circulation will help most to narrow the uncertainty. In the extratropics, relatively large internal variability introduces substantial uncertainty, while exacerbating risks associated with extreme events. Large ensemble simulations are essential to estimate the probabilistic distribution of climate change on regional scales. Regional models inherit atmospheric circulation uncertainty from global models and do not automatically solve the problem of regional climate change. We conclude that the current priority is to understand and reduce uncertainties on scales greater than 100 km to aid assessments at finer scales.