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.

Lin, L, Xu YY, Wang ZL, Diao CR, Dong WJ, Xie SP.  2018.  Changes in extreme rainfall over India and China attributed to regional aerosol-cloud interaction during the late 20th century rapid industrialization. Geophysical Research Letters. 45:7857-7865.   10.1029/2018gl078308   AbstractWebsite

Both mean and extreme rainfall decreased over India and Northern China during 1979-2005 at a rate of 0.2%/decade. The aerosol dampening effects on rainfall has also been suggested as a main driver of mean rainfall shift in India and China. Conflicting views, however, exist on whether aerosols enhance or suppress hazardous extreme heavy rainfall. Using Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) multimodel ensemble, here we show that only a subset of models realistically reproduces the late-20th-century trend of extreme rainfall for the three major regions in Asia: drying in India and Northern China and wetting in Southern China, all consistent with mean rainfall change. As a common feature, this subset of models includes an explicit treatment of the complex physical processes of aerosol-cloud interaction (i.e., both cloud-albedo and cloud-lifetime effects), while simulation performance deteriorates in models that include only aerosol direct effect or cloud-albedo effect. The enhanced aerosol pollution during this rapid industrialization era is the leading cause of the spatially heterogeneous extreme rainfall change by dimming surface solar radiation, cooling adjacent ocean water, and weakening moisture transport into the continental region, while GHG warming or natural variability alone cannot explain the observed changes. Our results indicate that the projected intensification of regional extreme rainfall during the early-to-mid 21st-century, in response to the anticipated aerosol reduction, may be underestimated in global climate models without detailed treatment of complex aerosol-cloud interaction. Plain Language Summary Over Asia, a robust pattern of drying-wetting-drying trend over three most populated regions (India, South China, and North China, respectively) have been observed in the past few decades. Yet the cause of the 30-year trend is rather unclear, with conflicting arguments on the importance of natural variability, the greenhouse gas, land cover, and aerosols. Most of the previous studies, however, fail to provide a holistic explanation for all three major regions simultaneously. The aerosol-cloud interaction-induced oceanic cooling, as we show here, provides a critical piece in reproducing the past trend. Only a fraction of climate models with complex treatment of aerosol-cloud interaction capture the observed pattern; thus, unconstrained model data set provides biased outlook of extreme rainfall in this region.

2016
Lintner, BR, Langenbrunner B, Neelin JD, Anderson BT, Niznik MJ, Li G, Xie SP.  2016.  Characterizing CMIP5 model spread in simulated rainfall in the Pacific Intertropical Convergence and South Pacific Convergence Zones. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 121:11590-11607.   10.1002/2016jd025284   AbstractWebsite

Current-generation climate models exhibit various errors or biases in both the spatial distribution and intensity of precipitation relative to observations. In this study, empirical orthogonal function analysis is applied to the space-model index domain of precipitation over the Pacific from Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) simulations to explore systematic spread of simulated precipitation characteristics across the ensemble. Two significant modes of spread, generically termed principal uncertainty patterns (PUPs), are identified in the December-January-February precipitation climatology: the leading PUP is associated with the meridional width of deep convection, while the second is associated with tradeoffs in precipitation intensity along the South Pacific Convergence Zone, the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), and the spurious Southern Hemisphere ITCZ. An important factor distinguishing PUPs from the analogy to time series analysis is that the modes can reflect either true systematic intermodel variance patterns or internal variability. In order to establish that the PUPS reflect the former, three complementary tests are performed by using preindustrial control simulations: a bootstrap significance test for reproducibility of the intermodel spatial patterns, a check for robustness over very long climatological averages, and a test on the loadings of these patterns relative to interdecadal sampling. Composite analysis based on these PUPs demonstrates physically plausible relationships to CMIP5 ensemble spread in simulated sea surface temperatures (SSTs), circulation, and moisture. Further analysis of atmosphere-only, prescribed SST simulations demonstrates decreased spread in the spatial distribution of precipitation, while substantial spread in intensity remains. Key Points Systematic spread in CMIP5 simulation of Pacific region rainfall is investigated by using empirical mode reduction techniques Two significant modes of model spread are identified for the DJF rainfall climatology These modes are interpreted in terms of spread in simulated patterns of SST and circulation

Li, G, Xie SP, Du Y.  2016.  A robust but spurious pattern of climate change in model projections over the tropical Indian Ocean. Journal of Climate. 29:5589-5608.   10.1175/jcli-d-15-0565.1   AbstractWebsite

Climate models consistently project reduced surface warming over the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean (IO) under increased greenhouse gas (GHG) forcing. This IO dipole (IOD)-like warming pattern, regarded as robust based on consistency among models by the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, results in a large increase in the frequency of extreme positive IOD (pIOD) events, elevating the risk of climate and weather disasters in the future over IO rim countries. These projections, however, do not consider large model biases in both the mean state and interannual IOD variance. In particular, a "present-future relationship" is identified between the historical simulations and representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 experiments from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) multimodel ensemble: models with an excessive IOD amplitude bias tend to project a strong IOD-like warming pattern in themean and a large increase in extreme pIOD occurrences under increased GHG forcing. This relationship links the present simulation errors to future climate projections, and is also consistent with our understanding of Bjerknes ocean-atmosphere feedback. This study calibrates regional climate projections by using this present-future relationship and observed IOD amplitude. The results show that the projected IOD-like pattern of mean changes and frequency increase of extreme pIOD events are largely artifacts of model errors and unlikely to emerge in the future. These results illustrate that a robust projection may still be biased and it is important to consider the model bias effect.

Wang, H, Xie SP, Liu QY.  2016.  Comparison of climate response to anthropogenic aerosol versus greenhouse gas forcing: Distinct patterns. Journal of Climate. 29:5175-5188.   10.1175/jcli-d-16-0106.1   AbstractWebsite

Spatial patterns of climate response to changes in anthropogenic aerosols and well-mixed greenhouse gases ( GHGs) are investigated using climate model simulations for the twentieth century. The climate response shows both similarities and differences in spatial pattern between aerosol and GHG runs. Common climate response between aerosol and GHG runs tends to be symmetric about the equator. This work focuses on the distinctive patterns that are unique to the anthropogenic aerosol forcing. The tropospheric cooling induced by anthropogenic aerosols is locally enhanced in the midlatitude Northern Hemisphere with a deep vertical structure around 40 degrees N, anchoring a westerly acceleration in thermal wind balance. The aerosol-induced negative radiative forcing in the Northern Hemisphere requires a cross-equatorial Hadley circulation to compensate interhemispheric energy imbalance in the atmosphere. Associated with a southward shift of the intertropical convergence zone, this interhemispheric asymmetric mode is unique to aerosol forcing and absent in GHG runs. Comparison of key climate response pattern indices indicates that the aerosol forcing dominates the interhemispheric asymmetric climate response in historical all-forcing simulations, as well as regional precipitation change such as the drying trend over the East Asian monsoon region. While GHG forcing dominates global mean surface temperature change, its effect is on par with and often opposes the aerosol effect on precipitation, making it difficult to detect anthropogenic change in rainfall from historical observations.