Publications

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2016
Long, SM, Xie SP.  2016.  Uncertainty in tropical rainfall projections: Atmospheric circulation effect and the ocean coupling. Journal of Climate. 29:2671-2687.   10.1175/jcli-d-15-0601.1   AbstractWebsite

Uncertainty in tropical rainfall projections under increasing radiative forcing is studied by using 26 models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. Intermodel spread in projected rainfall change generally increases with interactive sea surface temperature (SST) warming in coupled models compared to atmospheric models with a common pattern of prescribed SST increase. Moisture budget analyses reveal that much of the model uncertainty in tropical rainfall projections originates from intermodel discrepancies in the dynamical contribution due to atmospheric circulation change. Intermodel singular value decomposition (SVD) analyses further show a tight coupling between the intermodel variations in SST warming pattern and circulation change in the tropics. In the zonal mean, the first SVD mode features an anomalous interhemispheric Hadley circulation, while the second mode displays an SST peak near the equator. The asymmetric mode is accompanied by a coupled pattern of wind-evaporation-SST feedback in the tropics and is further tied to interhemispheric asymmetric change in extratropical shortwave radiative flux at the top of the atmosphere. Intermodel variability in the tropical circulation change exerts a strong control on the spread in tropical cloud cover change and cloud radiative effects among models. The results indicate that understanding the coupling between the anthropogenic changes in SST pattern and atmospheric circulation holds the key to reducing uncertainties in projections of future changes in tropical rainfall and clouds.

Kamae, Y, Ogura T, Watanabe M, Xie SP, Ueda H.  2016.  Robust cloud feedback over tropical land in a warming climate. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 121:2593-2609.   10.1002/2015jd024525   AbstractWebsite

Cloud-related radiative perturbations over land in a warming climate are of importance for human health, ecosystem, agriculture, and industry via solar radiation availability and local warming amplification. However, robustness and physical mechanisms responsible for the land cloud feedback were not examined sufficiently because of the limited contribution to uncertainty in global climate sensitivity. Here we show that cloud feedback in general circulation models over tropical land is robust, positive, and is relevant to atmospheric circulation change and thermodynamic constraint associated with water vapor availability. In a warming climate, spatial variations in tropospheric warming associated with climatological circulation pattern result in a general weakening of tropical circulation and a dynamic reduction of land cloud during summer monsoon season. Limited increase in availability of water vapor also reduces the land cloud. The reduction of land cloud depends on global-scale oceanic warming and is not sensitive to regional warming patterns. The robust positive feedback can contribute to the warming amplification and drying over tropical land in the future.

2015
Liu, W, Lu J, Leung LR, Xie SP, Liu ZY, Zhu J.  2015.  The de-correlation of westerly winds and westerly-wind stress over the Southern Ocean during the Last Glacial Maximum. Climate Dynamics. 45:3157-3168.   10.1007/s00382-015-2530-4   AbstractWebsite

Motivated by indications from paleo-evidence, this paper investigates the changes of the Southern Westerly Winds (SWW) and westerly-wind stress between the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and pre-industrial in the PMIP3/CMIP5 simulations, highlighting the role of Antarctic sea ice in modulating the wind effect on ocean. Particularly, a de-correlation occurs between the changes in SWW and westerly-wind stress, caused primarily by an equatorward expansion of winter Antarctic sea ice that undermines the efficacy of wind in generating stress over the liquid ocean. Such de-correlation may reflect the LGM condition in reality, in view of the fact that the model which simulates this condition has most fidelity in simulating modern SWW and Antarctic sea ice. Therein two models stand out for their agreements with paleo-evidence regarding the change of SWW and the westerly-wind stress. They simulate strengthened and poleward-migrated LGM SWW in the atmosphere, consistent with the indications from dust records. Whilst in the ocean, they well capture an equatorward-shifted pattern of the observed oceanic front shift, with most pronounced equatorward-shifted westerly wind stress during the LGM.

2012
Tokinaga, H, Xie SP, Deser C, Kosaka Y, Okumura YM.  2012.  Slowdown of the Walker circulation driven by tropical Indo-Pacific warming. Nature. 491:439-+.   10.1038/nature11576   Abstract

Global mean sea surface temperature (SST) has risen steadily over the past century(1,2), but the overall pattern contains extensive and often uncertain spatial variations, with potentially important effects on regional precipitation(3,4). Observations suggest a slowdown of the zonal atmospheric overturning circulation above the tropical Pacific Ocean (the Walker circulation) over the twentieth century(1,5). Although this change has been attributed to a muted hydrological cycle forced by global warming(5,6), the effect of SST warming patterns has not been explored and quantified(1,7,8). Here we perform experiments using an atmospheric model, and find that SST warming patterns are the main cause of the weakened Walker circulation over the past six decades (1950-2009). The SST trend reconstructed from bucket-sampled SST and night-time marine surface air temperature features a reduced zonal gradient in the tropical Indo-Pacific Ocean, a change consistent with subsurface temperature observations(8). Model experiments with this trend pattern robustly simulate the observed changes, including the Walker circulation slowdown and the eastward shift of atmospheric convection from the Indonesian maritime continent to the central tropical Pacific. Our results cannot establish whether the observed changes are due to natural variability or anthropogenic global warming, but they do show that the observed slowdown in the Walker circulation is presumably driven by oceanic rather than atmospheric processes.