The location of tropical precipitation in idealized atmospheric general circulation models forced with Andes topography and surface heat fluxes
Maroon, Elizabeth Allison
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This aquaplanet modeling study examines how ocean heat transport (OHT) and topography influence the location of tropical precipitation. Two global atmospheric general circulation models from the GFDL hierarchy of models are used to test how the atmosphere responds to the same forcing. One model (GRaM) has simplified (gray) radiation and lacks cloud and water vapor feedbacks, while the other model (AM2) has more complex radiation, cloud processes, and feedbacks; both atmospheric models are coupled to a slab ocean. In both models, adding an Andes-like mountain range or adding realistic Andes topography regionally displaces rainfall from the equator into the northern hemisphere, even when wind-evaporation feedback is disabled. The relative importance of the Andes to the asymmetric hemispheric heating of the atmosphere by ocean transport is examined by including idealized and realistic zonally-averaged surface heat fluxes (also known as q-fluxes) to the slab ocean. A hemispherically asymmetric q-flux displaces the tropical rainfall toward the hemisphere receiving the greatest heating by the ocean. In the zonal mean, the displacement of rainfall from the equator is greater in simulations with a realistic q-flux than with realistic Andes topography. Simulations with both a q-flux and topography show that the rainfall in the vicinity of the mountains is displaced slightly farther to the north in the region 50 (120) degrees to the west of the Andes in simulations using the GRaM (AM2) model than in simulations that only have a q-flux. In both models, the displacement of precipitation is always into the hemisphere receiving the greatest ocean heating, but the displacements in the simulations using the AM2 model are greater than those using GRaM. The output in GRaM shows that the atmospheric energy transport (AET) under-responds to a given OHT, while the cloud and radiative feedbacks active in AM2 result in an overcompensation of the AET. As a result, experiments using the AM2 model show a greater displacement of tropical precipitation from the equator.
- Atmospheric sciences