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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.

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.

Wang, GH, Xie SP, Huang RX, Chen CL.  2015.  Robust warming pattern of global subtropical oceans and its mechanism. Journal of Climate. 28:8574-8584.   10.1175/jcli-d-14-00809.1   AbstractWebsite

The subsurface ocean response to anthropogenic climate forcing remains poorly characterized. From the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP), a robust response of the lower thermocline is identified, where the warming is considerably weaker in the subtropics than in the tropics and high latitudes. The lower thermocline change is inversely proportional to the thermocline depth in the present climatology. Ocean general circulation model (OGCM) experiments show that sea surface warming is the dominant forcing for the subtropical gyre change in contrast to natural variability for which wind dominates, and the ocean response is insensitive to the spatial pattern of surface warming. An analysis based on a ventilated thermocline model shows that the pattern of the lower thermocline change can be interpreted in terms of the dynamic response to the strengthened stratification and downward heat mixing. Consequently, the subtropical gyres become intensified at the surface but weakened in the lower thermcline, consistent with results from CMIP experiments.

Long, SM, Xie SP, Zheng XT, Liu QY.  2014.  Fast and slow responses to global warming: Sea surface temperature and precipitation patterns. Journal of Climate. 27:285-299.   10.1175/jcli-d-13-00297.1   AbstractWebsite

The time-dependent response of sea surface temperature (SST) to global warming and the associated atmospheric changes are investigated based on a 1% yr(-1) CO2 increase to the quadrupling experiment of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model, version 2.1. The SST response consists of a fast component, for which the ocean mixed layer is in quasi equilibrium with the radiative forcing, and a slow component owing to the gradual warming of the deeper ocean in and beneath the thermocline. A diagnostic method is proposed to isolate spatial patterns of the fast and slow responses. The deep ocean warming retards the surface warming in the fast response but turns into a forcing for the slow response. As a result, the fast and slow responses are nearly opposite to each other in spatial pattern, especially over the subpolar North Atlantic/Southern Ocean regions of the deep-water/bottom-water formation, and in the interhemispheric SST gradient between the southern and northern subtropics. Wind-evaporation-SST feedback is an additional mechanism for the SST pattern formation in the tropics. Analyses of phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) multimodel ensemble of global warming simulations confirm the validity of the diagnostic method that separates the fast and slow responses. Tropical annual rainfall change follows the SST warming pattern in both the fast and slow responses in CMIP5, increasing where the SST increase exceeds the tropical mean warming.

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.