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Zhou, WY, Xie SP.  2018.  A hierarchy of idealized monsoons in an intermediate GCM. Journal of Climate. 31:9021-9036.   10.1175/jcli-d-18-0084.1   AbstractWebsite

A hierarchy of idealized monsoons with increased degrees of complexity is built using an intermediate model with simplified physics and idealized land-sea geometry. This monsoon hierarchy helps formulate a basic understanding about the distribution of the surface equivalent potential temperature (e), which proves to provide a general guide on the monsoon rainfall. The zonally uniform monsoon in the simplest aquaplanet simulations is explained by a linearized model of the meridional distribution of (e), which is driven by the seasonally varying solar insolation and damped by both the monsoon overturning circulation and the local negative feedback. The heat capacities of the surface and the atmosphere give rise to an intrinsic time scale that causes the monsoon migration to lag behind the sun and reduces the monsoon extent and intensity. Monsoons with a zonally confined continent can be understood based on the zonally uniform monsoon by considering the ocean influence on the land through the westerly jet advection, which reduces the monsoon extent and induces zonal asymmetry. Monsoon responses to more realistic factors such as land geometry, albedo, and ocean heat flux are consistently predicted by their impacts on the surface (e) distribution. The soil moisture effect, however, does not fully fit into the surface (e) argument and provides additional control on monsoon rainfall by inducing regional circulation and rainfall patterns.

Biasutti, M, Voigt A, Boos WR, Braconnot P, Hargreaves JC, Harrison SP, Kang SM, Mapes BE, Scheff J, Schumacher C, Sobel AH, Xie SP.  2018.  Global energetics and local physics as drivers of past, present and future monsoons. Nature Geoscience. 11:392-+.   10.1038/s41561-018-0137-1   AbstractWebsite

Global constraints on momentum and energy govern the variability of the rainfall belt in the intertropical convergence zone and the structure of the zonal mean tropical circulation. The continental-scale monsoon systems are also facets of a momentumand energy-constrained global circulation, but their modern and palaeo variability deviates substantially from that of the intertropical convergence zone. The mechanisms underlying deviations from expectations based on the longitudinal mean budgets are neither fully understood nor simulated accurately. We argue that a framework grounded in global constraints on energy and momentum yet encompassing the complexities of monsoon dynamics is needed to identify the causes of the mismatch between theory, models and observations, and ultimately to improve regional climate projections. In a first step towards this goal, disparate regional processes must be distilled into gross measures of energy flow in and out of continents and between the surface and the tropopause, so that monsoon dynamics may be coherently diagnosed across modern and palaeo observations and across idealized and comprehensive simulations. Accounting for zonal asymmetries in the circulation, land/ocean differences in surface fluxes, and the character of convective systems, such a monsoon framework would integrate our understanding at all relevant scales: from the fine details of how moisture and energy are lifted in the updrafts of thunderclouds, up to the global circulations.

Hwang, YT, Xie SP, Deser C, Kang SM.  2017.  Connecting tropical climate change with Southern Ocean heat uptake. Geophysical Research Letters. 44:9449-9457.   10.1002/2017gl074972   AbstractWebsite

Under increasing greenhouse gas forcing, climate models project tropical warming that is greater in the Northern than the Southern Hemisphere, accompanied by a reduction in the northeast trade winds and a strengthening of the southeast trades. While the ocean-atmosphere coupling indicates a positive feedback, what triggers the coupled asymmetry and favors greater warming in the northern tropics remains unclear. Far away from the tropics, the Southern Ocean (SO) has been identified as the major region of ocean heat uptake. Beyond its local effect on the magnitude of sea surface warming, we show by idealized modeling experiments in a coupled slab ocean configuration that enhanced SO heat uptake has a profound global impact. This SO-to-tropics connection is consistent with southward atmospheric energy transport across the equator. Enhanced SO heat uptake results in a zonally asymmetric La-Nina-like pattern of sea surface temperature change that not only affects tropical precipitation but also has influences on the Asian and North American monsoons.

Richter, I, Xie SP, Morioka Y, Doi T, Taguchi B, Behera S.  2017.  Phase locking of equatorial Atlantic variability through the seasonal migration of the ITCZ. Climate Dynamics. 48:3615-3629.   10.1007/s00382-016-3289-y   AbstractWebsite

The equatorial Atlantic is marked by significant interannual variability in sea-surface temperature (SST) that is phase-locked to late boreal spring and early summer. The role of the atmosphere in this phase locking is examined using observations, reanalysis data, and model output. The results show that equatorial zonal surface wind anomalies, which are a main driver of warm and cold events, typically start decreasing in June, despite SST and sea-level pressure gradient anomalies being at their peak during this month. This behavior is explained by the seasonal northward migration of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) in early summer. The north-equatorial position of the Atlantic ITCZ contributes to the decay of wind anomalies in three ways: (1) horizontal advection associated with the cross-equatorial winds transports air masses of comparatively low zonal momentum anomalies from the southeast toward the equator. (2) The absence of deep convection leads to changes in vertical momentum transport that reduce the equatorial wind anomalies at the surface, while anomalies aloft remain relatively strong. (3) The cross-equatorial flow is associated with increased total wind speed, which increases surface drag and deposit of momentum into the ocean. Previous studies have shown that convection enhances the surface wind response to SST anomalies. The present study indicates that convection also amplifies the surface zonal wind response to sea-level pressure gradients in the western equatorial Atlantic, where SST anomalies are small. This introduces a new element into coupled air-sea interaction of the tropical Atlantic.