04 Jul 2017
04 Jul 2017
Status: this discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD). The manuscript was not accepted for further review after discussion.

The sensitivity of the large-scale atmosphere circulation to changes in surface temperature gradients in the Northern Hemisphere

Sonja Molnos1,2, Stefan Petri1, Jascha Lehmann1, Erik Peukert1,2, and Dim Coumou1,3 Sonja Molnos et al.
  • 1Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Department of Physics, University of Potsdam, Germany
  • 3Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), VU University Amsterdam

Abstract. Climate and weather conditions in the mid-latitudes are strongly driven by the large-scale atmosphere circulation. Observational data indicates that important components of the large-scale circulation have changed in recent decades including the strength of the Hadley cell, jet streams, storm tracks and planetary waves. Associated impacts cover a broad range, including changes in the frequency and nature of weather extremes and shifts of fertile habitats with implications for biodiversity and agriculture. Dynamical theories have been proposed that link the shift of the poleward edge of the Northern Hadley cell to changes in the meridional temperature gradient. Moreover, model simulations have been carried out to analyse the cause of observed and projected changes in the large-scale atmosphere circulation. However, the question of the underlying drivers and particularly the possible role of global warming is still debated. Here, we use a statistical-dynamical atmosphere model (SDAM) to analyse the sensitivity of the Northern Hemisphere Hadley cell, storm tracks, jet streams and planetary waves to changes in temperature fields by systematically altering the zonal and meridional temperature gradient as well as the global mean surface temperature. SDAMs are computationally fast compared to more complex general circulation models (GCM) which enables us to scan a large and high-dimensional parameter space for sensitivity analyses using more than thousand individual model runs.

Our results show that the strength of the Hadley cell, storm tracks and jet streams depends almost linearly on both the global mean temperature and the meridional temperature gradient whereas the zonal temperature gradient has little or no influence. The magnitude of planetary waves is clearly affected by all three temperature components. Finally, the width of the Hadley cell behaves nonlinearly with respect to all three temperature components.

Under global warming the meridional temperature gradient is expected to change: Enhanced warming is expected in the Arctic, largely near the surface, and at the equator at high altitudes. Also there is a pronounced seasonality to these warming patterns. Using SDAMs to disentangle and separately analyse the effect of individual temperature changes might thus help to understand observed and projected changes in large-scale atmosphere dynamics.

Sonja Molnos et al.

Status: closed
Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Printer-friendly Version - Printer-friendly version Supplement - Supplement
Status: closed
Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Printer-friendly Version - Printer-friendly version Supplement - Supplement

Sonja Molnos et al.

Sonja Molnos et al.


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