Articles | Volume 2, issue 1
Research article
21 Jun 2011
Research article |  | 21 Jun 2011

The energetics response to a warmer climate: relative contributions from the transient and stationary eddies

D. Hernández-Deckers and J.-S. von Storch

Abstract. We use the Lorenz Energy Cycle (LEC) to evaluate changes in global energetic activity due to CO2-doubling in the coupled atmosphere-ocean ECHAM5/MPI-OM model. Globally, the energetic activity – measured as the total conversion rate of available potential energy into kinetic energy – decreases by about 4 %. This weakening results from a dual response that consists of a strengthening of the LEC in the upper-troposphere and a weakening in the lower and middle troposphere. This is fully consistent with results from a coarser resolution version of the same coupled model. We further use our experiments to investigate the individual contributions of the transient and stationary eddy components to the main energetics response.

The transient eddy terms have a larger contribution to the total energetic activity than the stationary ones. We find that this is also true in terms of their 2 × CO2-response. Changes in the transient eddy components determine the main energetics response, whereas the stationary eddy components have very small contributions. Hence, the dual response – strengthening in the upper troposphere and weakening below – concerns mainly the transient eddy terms. We can relate qualitatively this response to the two main features of the 2 × CO2 warming pattern: (a) the tropical upper-tropospheric warming increases the pole-to-equator temperature gradient – strengthening the energetic activity above – and enhances static stability – weakening the energetic activity below; and (b) the high-latitude surface warming decreases the pole-to-equator temperature gradient in the lower troposphere – weakening the energetic activity below. Despite the small contribution from the stationary eddies to the main energetics response, changes in stationary eddy available potential energy (Pse) reflect some features of the warming pattern: stronger land-sea contrasts at the subtropics and weaker land-sea contrasts at the high northern latitudes affect Pse regionally, but do not affect the global energetics response.

Final-revised paper