Studies of Climate Dynamics with Innovative Global-Model Simulations
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Climate simulations with different degrees of idealization are essential for the development of our understanding of the climate system. Studies in this dissertation employ carefully designed global-model simulations for the goal of gaining theoretical and conceptual insights into some problems of climate dynamics. Firstly, global warming-induced changes in extreme precipitation are investigated using a global climate model with idealized geography. The precipitation changes over an idealized north-south mid-latitude mountain barrier at the western margin of an otherwise flat continent are studied. The intensity of the 40 most intense events on the western slopes increases by about 4 %/K of surface warming. In contrast, the intensity of the top 40 events on the eastern mountain slopes increases at about 6 %/K. This higher sensitivity is due to enhanced ascent during the eastern-slope events, which can be explained in terms of linear mountain-wave theory relating to global warming-induced changes in the upper-tropospheric static stability and the tropopause level. Dominated by different dynamical factors, changes in the intensity of extreme precipitation events over plains and oceans might differ from changes over mountains. So the response of extreme precipitation over mountains and flat areas are further compared using larger data sets of simulated extreme events over the two types of surfaces. It is found that the sensitivity of extreme precipitation to increases in global mean surface temperature is 3 %/K lower over mountains than over the oceans or the plains. The difference in sensitivity among these regions is not due to thermodynamic effects, but rather to differences between the gravity-wave dynamics governing vertical velocities over the mountains and the cyclone dynamics governing vertical motions over the oceans and plains. The strengthening of latent heating in the storms over oceans and plains leads to stronger ascent in the warming climate. Motivated by the fact that natural variability of the atmosphere could obscure the signal of anthropogenic warming on time scales of years to decades, the large scale variability of the atmosphere is also studied. Analysis using simulations in the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble project reveals that the Northern Annular Mode (NAM) does not have a stable spatial pattern when 50-year long segments of data are used to calculate it. Some segments of data result in NAM-like variability with a very strong North Pacific center of action, while in some others it exhibits a more symmetric structure, with North Pacific and Euro-Atlantic centers of comparable strength. Perhaps somewhat puzzling, the NAM's North Pacific center of action is found to have a strengthening trend under anthropogenic warming. Lastly, the large-scale character of an atmosphere in rotating Radiative-Convective Equilibrium (RCE) is studied, using a global atmospheric model with prescribed globally uniform sea surface temperature and no insolation. In such an equilibrium state, numerous tropical cyclone-like vortices develop in the extratropics, which move slowly poleward and westward. The typical spacing of simulated tropical cyclone-like vortices is comparable to the Rossby radius of deformation, while the production of available potential energy is at a scale slightly smaller than that of the vortices. It is hypothesized that the growth of tropical cyclone-like vortices is driven by the self-aggregation of convection, while baroclinic instability destabilizes any vortices that grow significantly larger than the deformation radius. A weak Hadley circulation dominates in the deep tropics, and an eastward-propagating wavenumber one MJO-like mode with a period of 30 to 40 days develops along the equator.
- Atmospheric sciences