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2019
Zheng, XT, Hui C, Xie SP, Cai WJ, Long SM.  2019.  Intensification of El Nino Rainfall Variability Over the Tropical Pacific in the Slow Oceanic Response to Global Warming. Geophysical Research Letters. 46:2253-2260.   10.1029/2018gl081414   AbstractWebsite

Changes in rainfall variability of El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are investigated under scenarios where the greenhouse gases increase and then stabilize. During the period of increasing greenhouse forcing, the ocean mixed layer warms rapidly. After the forcing stabilizes, the deeper ocean continues to warm the surface (the slow response). We show that ENSO rainfall variability over the tropical Pacific intensifies in both periods but the rate of increase per degree global mean surface temperature (GMST) warming is larger for the slow response because of greater relative warming in the base state as the mean upwelling changes from a damping to a driver of the surface warming. Our results have important implications for climate extremes under GMST stabilization that the Paris Agreement calls for. To stabilize GMST, the fast surface cooling offsets the slow warming from the prior greenhouse gas increase, while ENSO rainfall variability would continue to increase. Plain Language Summary The Paris Agreement calls for limiting global mean surface temperature increase to well below 2 degrees at the end of the 21st century. This requires the greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration to peak and subsequently decline in the next few decades. After the GHG concentration peak, the heat accumulated in the ocean surface layer continues to penetrate to the deeper ocean. This deeper ocean warming leads to a slow response of surface warming, further influencing the climate system. This study examines scenarios where GHGs increase and then stabilize to isolate the fast and slow responses of El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) rainfall variability. We find intensification of ENSO rainfall variability both during the increase and after stabilization of GHG concentrations due to a persistent El Nino-like mean warming pattern in the tropical Pacific. Furthermore, for unit global mean surface temperature increase, the changes in the mean state temperature and ENSO rainfall variability in the eastern equatorial Pacific is larger during the slow response. These results imply that there is a need for GHG emission reduction in the near future to avoid more extreme tropical rainfall during El Nino.

2017
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.

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.

2015
Huang, P, Xie SP.  2015.  Mechanisms of change in ENSO-induced tropical Pacific rainfall variability in a warming climate. Nature Geoscience. 8:922-U48.   10.1038/ngeo2571   AbstractWebsite

El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a mode of natural variability that has considerable impacts on global climate and ecosystems(1-4), through rainfall variability in the tropical Pacific and atmospheric teleconnections(5). In response to global warming, ENSO-driven rainfall variability is projected to intensify over the central-eastern Pacific but weaken over the western Pacific, whereas ENSO-related sea surface temperature variability is projected to decrease(6-14). Here, we explore the mechanisms that lead to changes in ENSO-driven rainfall variability in the tropical Pacific in response to global warming, with the help of a moisture budget decomposition for simulations from eighteen state-of-the-art climate models(15). We identify two opposing mechanisms that approximately offset each other: the increase in mean-state moisture content associated with surface warming strengthens ENSO-related rainfall anomalies(7), whereas the projected reduction in ENSO-related variability of sea surface temperatures suppresses rainfall. Two additional effects-spatially non-uniform changes in background sea surface temperatures and structural changes in sea surface temperature related to ENSO-both enhance central-eastern Pacific rainfall variability while dampening variability in the western Pacific, in nearly equal amounts. Our decomposition method may be generalized to investigate how rainfall variability would change owing to nonlinear interactions between background sea surface temperatures and their variability.

Xu, Y, Xie SP.  2015.  Ocean mediation of tropospheric response to reflecting and absorbing aerosols. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 15:5827-5833.   10.5194/acp-15-5827-2015   AbstractWebsite

Radiative forcing by reflecting (e.g., sulfate, SO4) and absorbing (e.g., black carbon, BC) aerosols is distinct: the former cools the planet by reducing solar radiation at the top of the atmosphere and the surface, without largely affecting the atmospheric column, while the latter heats the atmosphere directly. Despite the fundamental difference in forcing, here we show that the structure of the tropospheric response is remarkably similar between the two types of aerosols, featuring a deep vertical structure of temperature change (of opposite sign) at the Northern Hemisphere (NH) mid-latitudes. The deep temperature structure is anchored by the slow response of the ocean, as a large meridional sea surface temperature (SST) gradient drives an anomalous interhemispheric Hadley circulation in the tropics and induces atmospheric eddy adjustments at the NH mid-latitudes. The tropospheric warming in response to projected future decline in reflecting aerosols poses additional threats to the stability of mountain glaciers in the NH. Additionally, robust tropospheric response is unique to aerosol forcing and absent in the CO2 response, which can be exploited for climate change attribution.

Liu, W, Lu J, Xie SP.  2015.  Understanding the Indian Ocean response to double CO2 forcing in a coupled model. Ocean Dynamics. 65:1037-1046.   10.1007/s10236-015-0854-6   AbstractWebsite

This study investigates the roles of multiple ocean-atmospheric feedbacks in the oceanic response to increased carbon dioxide by applying an overriding technique to a coupled climate model. The annual-mean sea surface temperature (SST) response in the Indian Ocean exhibits a zonal-dipolar warming pattern, with a reduced warming in the eastern and enhanced warming in the western tropical Indian Ocean (TIO), reminiscent of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) pattern. The development of the dipole pattern exhibits a pronounced seasonal evolution. The overriding experiments show that the wind-evaporation-sea surface temperature (WES) feedback accounts for most of the enhanced warming in the western and central TIO during May-July with reduced southerly monsoonal wind and contributes partially to the reduced warming in the eastern TIO during June-September. The Bjerknes feedback explains most of the reduced warming in the eastern TIO during August-October, accompanied by a reduction of precipitation, easterly wind anomalies, and a thermocline shoaling along the equator. Both feedbacks facilitate the formation of the dipolar warming pattern in the TIO. The residual from the Bjerknes and WES feedbacks is attributable to the "static" response to increasing CO2. While the static SST response also contributes to the seasonal SST variations, the static precipitation response is relatively uniform in the TIO, appearing as a general increase of precipitation along the equatorial Indian Ocean during June-September.

Long, SM, Xie SP.  2015.  Intermodel variations in projected precipitation change over the North Atlantic: Sea surface temperature effect. Geophysical Research Letters. 42:4158-4165.   10.1002/2015gl063852   AbstractWebsite

Intermodel variations in future precipitation projection in the North Atlantic are studied using 23 state-of-art models from Phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. Model uncertainty in annual mean rainfall change is locally enhanced along the Gulf Stream. The moisture budget analysis reveals that much of the model uncertainty in rainfall change can be traced back to the discrepancies in surface evaporation change and transient eddy effect among models. Results of the intermodel Singular Value Decomposition (SVD) analysis show that intermodel variations in local sea surface temperature (SST) pattern exert a strong control over the spread of rainfall projection among models through the modulation of evaporation change. The first three SVD modes explain more than 60% of the intermodel variance of rainfall projection and show distinct SST patterns with mode water-induced banded structures, reduced subpolar warming due to ocean dynamical cooling, and the Gulf Stream shift, respectively.

2014
Zhou, ZQ, Xie SP, Zheng XT, Liu QY, Wang H.  2014.  Global warming-induced changes in El Nino teleconnections over the North Pacific and North America. Journal of Climate. 27:9050-9064.   10.1175/jcli-d-14-00254.1   AbstractWebsite

El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) induces climate anomalies around the globe. Atmospheric general circulation model simulations are used to investigate how ENSO-induced teleconnection patterns during boreal winter might change in response to global warming in the Pacific-North American sector. As models disagree on changes in the amplitude and spatial pattern of ENSO in response to global warming, for simplicity the same sea surface temperature (SST) pattern of ENSO is prescribed before and after the climate warming. In a warmer climate, precipitation anomalies intensify and move eastward over the equatorial Pacific during El Nino because the enhanced mean SST warming reduces the barrier to deep convection in the eastern basin. Associated with the eastward shift of tropical convective anomalies, the ENSO-forced Pacific-North American (PNA) teleconnection pattern moves eastward and intensifies under the climate warming. By contrast, the PNA mode of atmospheric internal variability remains largely unchanged in pattern, suggesting the importance of tropical convection in shifting atmospheric teleconnections. As the ENSO-induced PNA pattern shifts eastward, rainfall anomalies are expected to intensify on the west coast of North America, and the El Nino-induced surface warming to expand eastward and occupy all of northern North America. The spatial pattern of the mean SST warming affects changes in ENSO teleconnections. The teleconnection changes are larger with patterned mean warming than in an idealized case where the spatially uniform warming is prescribed in the mean state. The results herein suggest that the eastward-shifted PNA pattern is a robust change to be expected in the future, independent of the uncertainty in changes of ENSO itself.

2013
Zheng, XT, Xie SP, Du Y, Liu L, Huang G, Liu QY.  2013.  Indian Ocean dipole response to global warming in the CMIP5 multimodel ensemble. Journal of Climate. 26:6067-6080.   10.1175/jcli-d-12-00638.1   AbstractWebsite

The response of the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) mode to global warming is investigated based on simulations from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). In response to increased greenhouse gases, an IOD-like warming pattern appears in the equatorial Indian Ocean, with reduced (enhanced) warming in the east (west), an easterly wind trend, and thermocline shoaling in the east. Despite a shoaling thermocline and strengthened thermocline feedback in the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean, the interannual variance of the IOD mode remains largely unchanged in sea surface temperature (SST) as atmospheric feedback and zonal wind variance weaken under global warming. The negative skewness in eastern Indian Ocean SST is reduced as a result of the shoaling thermocline. The change in interannual IOD variance exhibits some variability among models, and this intermodel variability is correlated with the change in thermocline feedback. The results herein illustrate that mean state changes modulate interannual modes, and suggest that recent changes in the IOD mode are likely due to natural variations.