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Yang, Y, Xie SP, Wu LX, Kosaka Y, Li JP.  2017.  Causes of enhanced sst variability over the equatorial atlantic and its relationship to the Atlantic Zonal Mode in CMIP5. Journal of Climate. 30:6171-6182.   10.1175/jcli-d-16-0866.1   AbstractWebsite

A spurious band of enhanced sea surface temperature (SST) variance (SBEV) is identified over the northern equatorial Atlantic in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) Climate Model, version 2.1. The SBEV is especially pronounced in boreal spring owing to the combined effect of both anomalous atmospheric thermal forcing and oceanic vertical upwelling. The SBEV is a common bias in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5), found in 14 out of 23 models. The SBEV in CMIP5 is associated with the atmospheric thermal forcing and the oceanic vertical upwelling, similar to GFDL CM2.1. While the tropical North Atlantic variability is only weakly correlated with the Atlantic zonal mode (AZM) in observations, the SBEV in CMIP5 produces conditions that drive and intensify the AZM variability via triggering the Bjerknes feedback. This partially explains why AZM is strong in some CMIP5 models even though the equatorial cold tongue and easterly trades are biased low.

Zhou, WY, Xie SP, Zhou ZQ.  2016.  Slow preconditioning for the abrupt convective jump over the Northwest Pacific during summer. Journal of Climate. 29:8103-8113.   10.1175/jcli-d-16-0342.1   AbstractWebsite

The rapid intensification of convective activity in mid-July over the northwest Pacific marks the final stage of the Asian summer monsoon, accompanied by major shifts in regional rainfall and circulation patterns. An entraining plume model is used to investigate the physical processes underlying the abrupt convective jump. Despite little change in sea surface temperature (SST), gradual lower-troposphere mixing leads to a threshold transition in the model as follows. Before mid-July, although SST is already high (29 degrees C), the convective plume is inhibited by the capping inversion above the trade cumulus boundary layer. As the lower troposphere is gradually mixed, the boundary layer top rises with reduced atmospheric stability and increased humidity in the lower troposphere. These factors weaken the inhibition effect of the inversion on the entraining plume. As soon as the plume is able to overcome the inversion barrier, it can rise all the way to the upper troposphere. This marks an abrupt threshold transition to a deep convection regime with heavy rainfall. The convective available potential energy (CAPE) of the entraining plume is found to be a better indicator of the rainfall intensity compared to the conventional undiluted CAPE. The latter fails to capture the onset by neglecting interactions between convective clouds and the environment. Current general circulation models (GCMs) fail to capture the abrupt convective jump and instead simulate a rather smooth seasonal evolution of rainfall. Compared to observations, GCMs simulate a higher trade cumulus top with excessive mixing in the lower troposphere. Convection is no longer inhibited by the inversion barrier, and rainfall simply follows the smooth variation of SST.

Kilpatrick, TJ, Xie SP.  2016.  Circumventing rain-related errors in scatterometer wind observations. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 121:9422-9440.   10.1002/2016jd025105   AbstractWebsite

Satellite scatterometer observations of surface winds over the global oceans are critical for climate research and applications like weather forecasting. However, rain-related errors remain an important limitation, largely precluding satellite study of winds in rainy areas. Here we utilize a novel technique to compute divergence and curl from satellite observations of surface winds and surface wind stress in rainy areas. This technique circumvents rain-related errors by computing line integrals around rainy patches, using valid wind vector observations that border the rainy patches. The area-averaged divergence and wind stress curl inside each rainy patch are recovered via the divergence and curl theorems. We process the 10 year Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) data set and show that the line-integral method brings the QuikSCAT winds into better agreement with an atmospheric reanalysis, largely removing both the "divergence bias" and "anticyclonic curl bias" in rainy areas noted in previous studies. The corrected QuikSCAT wind stress curl reduces the North Pacific midlatitude Sverdrup transport by 20-30%. We test several methods of computing divergence and curl on winds from an atmospheric model simulation and show that the line-integral method has the smallest errors. We anticipate that scatterometer winds processed with the line-integral method will improve ocean model simulations and help illuminate the coupling between atmospheric convection and circulation.

Xie, SP, Kosaka Y, Okumura YM.  2016.  Distinct energy budgets for anthropogenic and natural changes during global warming hiatus. Nature Geoscience. 9:29-+.   10.1038/ngeo2581   AbstractWebsite

The Earth's energy budget for the past four decades can now be closed(1), and it supports anthropogenic greenhouse forcing as the cause for climate warming. However, closure depends on invoking an unrealistically large increase in aerosol cooling(2) during the so-called global warming hiatus since the late 1990s (refs 3,4) that was due partly to tropical Pacific Ocean cooling(5-7). The difficulty with this closure lies in the assumption that the same climate feedback applies to both anthropogenic warming and natural cooling. Here we analyse climate model simulations with and without anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gas concentrations, and show that top-of-the-atmosphere radiation and global mean surface temperature are much less tightly coupled for natural decadal variability than for the greenhouse-gas-induced response, implying distinct climate feedback between anthropogenic warming and natural variability. In addition, we identify a phase difference between top-of-the-atmosphere radiation and global mean surface temperature such that ocean heat uptake tends to slow down during the surface warming hiatus. This result deviates from existing energy theory but we find that it is broadly consistent with observations. Our study highlights the importance of developing metrics that distinguish anthropogenic change from natural variations to attribute climate variability and to estimate climate sensitivity from observations.

Liu, JW, Xie SP, Zhang SP.  2015.  Effects of the Hawaiian Islands on the vertical structure of low-level clouds from CALIPSO lidar. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 120:215-228.   10.1002/2014jd022410   AbstractWebsite

The steady northeast trade winds impinge on the Hawaiian Islands, producing prominent island wakes of multispatial scales from tens to thousands of kilometers. Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) reveal rich three-dimensional structures of low-level clouds that are induced by the islands, distinct from the background environment. The cloud frequency peaks between 1.5 and 2.0km in cloud top elevation over the windward slopes of the islands of Kauai and Oahu due to orographic lifting and daytime island heating. In the nighttime near-island wake of Kauai, CALIPSO captures a striking cloud hole below 1.6km as the cold advection from the island suppresses low-level clouds. The cyclonic eddy of the mechanical wake behind the island of Hawaii favors the formation of low-level clouds (below 2.5km), and the anticyclonic eddy suppresses the low-level cloud formation, indicative of the dynamical effect on the vertical structure of low-level clouds. In the long Hawaiian wake due to air-sea interaction, low-level clouds form over both the warmer and colder waters, but the cloud tops are 400-600m higher over the warm than the cold waters. In addition, the day-night differences and the sensitivity of low-level clouds to the background trade wind inversion height are also studied. Key Points