Articles | Volume 9, issue 2
Research article
16 Apr 2018
Research article |  | 16 Apr 2018

Midlatitude atmospheric circulation responses under 1.5 and 2.0 °C warming and implications for regional impacts

Camille Li, Clio Michel, Lise Seland Graff, Ingo Bethke, Giuseppe Zappa, Thomas J. Bracegirdle, Erich Fischer, Ben J. Harvey, Trond Iversen, Martin P. King, Harinarayan Krishnan, Ludwig Lierhammer, Daniel Mitchell, John Scinocca, Hideo Shiogama, Dáithí A. Stone, and Justin J. Wettstein

Abstract. This study investigates the global response of the midlatitude atmospheric circulation to 1.5 and 2.0 °C of warming using the HAPPI (Half a degree Additional warming, Prognosis and Projected Impacts) ensemble, with a focus on the winter season. Characterising and understanding this response is critical for accurately assessing the near-term regional impacts of climate change and the benefits of limiting warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, as advocated by the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The HAPPI experimental design allows an assessment of uncertainty in the circulation response due to model dependence and internal variability. Internal variability is found to dominate the multi-model mean response of the jet streams, storm tracks, and stationary waves across most of the midlatitudes; larger signals in these features are mostly consistent with those seen in more strongly forced warming scenarios. Signals that emerge in the 1.5 °C experiment are a weakening of storm activity over North America, an inland shift of the North American stationary ridge, an equatorward shift of the North Pacific jet exit, and an equatorward intensification of the South Pacific jet. Signals that emerge under an additional 0.5 °C of warming include a poleward shift of the North Atlantic jet exit, an eastward extension of the North Atlantic storm track, and an intensification on the flanks of the Southern Hemisphere storm track. Case studies explore the implications of these circulation responses for precipitation impacts in the Mediterranean, in western Europe, and on the North American west coast, paying particular attention to possible outcomes at the tails of the response distributions. For example, the projected weakening of the Mediterranean storm track emerges in the 2 °C warmer world, with exceptionally dry decades becoming 5 times more likely.

Short summary
This study investigates the midlatitude atmospheric circulation response to 1.5°C and 2.0°C of warming using modelling experiments run for the HAPPI project (Half a degree Additional warming, Prognosis & Projected Impacts). While the chaotic nature of the atmospheric flow dominates in these low-end warming scenarios, some local changes emerge. Case studies explore precipitation impacts both for regions that dry (Mediterranean) and regions that get wetter (Europe, North American west coast).
Final-revised paper