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Li, G, Xie SP, Du Y, Luo YY.  2016.  Effects of excessive equatorial cold tongue bias on the projections of tropical Pacific climate change. Part I: the warming pattern in CMIP5 multi-model ensemble. Climate Dynamics. 47:3817-3831.   10.1007/s00382-016-3043-5   AbstractWebsite

The excessive cold tongue error in the equatorial Pacific has persisted in several generations of climate models. Based on the historical simulations and Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5 experiments in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) multi-model ensemble (MME), this study finds that models with an excessive westward extension of cold tongue and insufficient equatorial western Pacific precipitation tend to project a weaker east-minus-west gradient of sea surface temperature (SST) warming along the equatorial Pacific under increased greenhouse gas (GHG) forcing. This La Nia-like error of tropical Pacific SST warming is consistent with our understanding of negative SST-convective feedback over the western Pacific warm pool. Based on this relationship between the present simulations and future projections, the present study applies an "observational constraint" of equatorial western Pacific precipitation to calibrate the projections of tropical Pacific climate change. After the corrections, CMIP5 models robustly project an El Nio-like warming pattern, with a MME mean increase by a factor of 2.3 in east-minus-west gradient of equatorial Pacific SST warming and reduced inter-model uncertainty. Corrections in projected changes in tropical precipitation and atmospheric circulation are physically consistent. This study suggests that a realistic cold tongue simulation would lead to a more reliable tropical Pacific climate projection.

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.