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Kang, SM, Xie SP.  2014.  Dependence of climate response on meridional structure of external thermal forcing. Journal of Climate. 27:5593-5600.   10.1175/jcli-d-13-00622.1   AbstractWebsite

This study shows that the magnitude of global surface warming greatly depends on the meridional distribution of surface thermal forcing. An atmospheric model coupled to an aquaplanet slab mixed layer ocean is perturbed by prescribing heating to the ocean mixed layer. The heating is distributed uniformly globally or confined to narrow tropical or polar bands, and the amplitude is adjusted to ensure that the global mean remains the same for all cases. Since the tropical temperature is close to a moist adiabat, the prescribed heating leads to a maximized warming near the tropopause, whereas the polar warming is trapped near the surface because of strong atmospheric stability. Hence, the surface warming is more effectively damped by radiation in the tropics than in the polar region. As a result, the global surface temperature increase is weak (strong) when the given amount of heating is confined to the tropical (polar) band. The degree of this contrast is shown to depend on water vapor- and cloud-radiative feedbacks that alter the effective strength of prescribed thermal forcing.

Kang, SM, Held IM, Xie SP.  2014.  Contrasting the tropical responses to zonally asymmetric extratropical and tropical thermal forcing. Climate Dynamics. 42:2033-2043.   10.1007/s00382-013-1863-0   AbstractWebsite

The mechanism is investigated by which extratropical thermal forcing with a finite zonal extent produces global impact. The goal is to understand the near-global response to a weakened Atlantic meridional overturning circulation suggested by paleoclimate data and modeling studies. An atmospheric model coupled to an aquaplanet slab mixed layer ocean, in which the unperturbed climate is zonally symmetric, is perturbed by prescribing cooling of the mixed layer in the Northern Hemisphere and heating of equal magnitude in the Southern Hemisphere, over some finite range of longitudes. In the case of heating/cooling confined to the extratropics, the zonally asymmetric forcing is homogenized by midlatitude westerlies and extratropical eddies before passing on to the tropics, inducing a zonally symmetric tropical response. In addition, the zonal mean responses vary little as the zonal extent of the forced region is changed, holding the zonal mean heating fixed, implying little impact of stationary eddies on the zonal mean. In contrast, when the heating/cooling is confined to the tropics, the zonally asymmetric forcing produces a highly localized response with slight westward extension, due to advection by mean easterly trade winds. Regardless of the forcing location, neither the spatial structure nor the zonal mean responses are strongly affected by wind-evaporation-sea surface temperature feedback.

Li, G, Xie SP.  2014.  Tropical Biases in CMIP5 Multimodel Ensemble: The Excessive Equatorial Pacific Cold Tongue and Double ITCZ Problems. Journal of Climate. 27:1765-1780.   10.1175/jcli-d-13-00337.1   AbstractWebsite

Errors of coupled general circulation models (CGCMs) limit their utility for climate prediction and projection. Origins of and feedback for tropical biases are investigated in the historical climate simulations of 18 CGCMs from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5), together with the available Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) simulations. Based on an intermodel empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis of tropical Pacific precipitation, the excessive equatorial Pacific cold tongue and double intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) stand out as the most prominent errors of the current generation of CGCMs. The comparison of CMIP-AMIP pairs enables us to identify whether a given type of errors originates from atmospheric models. The equatorial Pacific cold tongue bias is associated with deficient precipitation and surface easterly wind biases in the western half of the basin in CGCMs, but these errors are absent in atmosphere-only models, indicating that the errors arise from the interaction with the ocean via Bjerknes feedback. For the double ITCZ problem, excessive precipitation south of the equator correlates well with excessive downward solar radiation in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) midlatitudes, an error traced back to atmospheric model simulations of cloud during austral spring and summer. This extratropical forcing of the ITCZ displacements is mediated by tropical ocean-atmosphere interaction and is consistent with recent studies of ocean-atmospheric energy transport balance.

Xu, LX, Xie SP, Liu QY.  2013.  Fast and slow responses of the North Pacific mode water and Subtropical Countercurrent to global warming. Journal of Ocean University of China. 12:216-221.   10.1007/s11802-013-2189-6   AbstractWebsite

Six coupled general circulation models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) are employed for examining the full evolution of the North Pacific mode water and Subtropical Countercurrent (STCC) under global warming over 400 years following the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) 4.5. The mode water and STCC first show a sharp weakening trend when the radiative forcing increases, but then reverse to a slow strengthening trend of smaller magnitude after the radiative forcing is stablized. As the radiative forcing increases during the 21st century, the ocean warming is surface-intensified and decreases with depth, strengthening the upper ocean's stratification and becoming unfavorable for the mode water formation. Moving southward in the subtropical gyre, the shrinking mode water decelerates the STCC to the south. After the radiative forcing is stabilized in the 2070s, the subsequent warming is greater at the subsurface than at the sea surface, destabilizing the upper ocean and becoming favorable for the mode water formation. As a result, the mode water and STCC recover gradually after the radiative forcing is stabilized.

Wang, LY, Liu QY, Xu LX, Xie SP.  2013.  Response of mode water and Subtropical Countercurrent to greenhouse gas and aerosol forcing in the North Pacific. Journal of Ocean University of China. 12:222-229.   10.1007/s11802-013-2193-x   AbstractWebsite

The response of the North Pacific Subtropical Mode Water and Subtropical Countercurrent (STCC) to changes in greenhouse gas (GHG) and aerosol is investigated based on the 20th-century historical and single-forcing simulations with the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model version 3 (GFDL CM3). The aerosol effect causes sea surface temperature (SST) to decrease in the mid-latitude North Pacific, especially in the Kuroshio Extension region, during the past five decades (1950-2005), and this cooling effect exceeds the warming effect by the GHG increase. The STCC response to the GHG and aerosol forcing are opposite. In the GHG (aerosol) forcing run, the STCC decelerates (accelerates) due to the decreased (increased) mode waters in the North Pacific, resulting from a weaker (stronger) front in the mixed layer depth and decreased (increased) subduction in the mode water formation region. The aerosol effect on the SST, mode waters and STCC more than offsets the GHG effect. The response of SST in a zonal band around 40A degrees N and the STCC to the combined forcing in the historical simulation is similar to the response to the aerosol forcing.