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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  06 Nov 2020

06 Nov 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ESD.

A climate network perspective of the intertropical convergence zone

Frederik Wolf1,2, Aiko Voigt3,4, and Reik V. Donner1,5 Frederik Wolf et al.
  • 1Research Domain IV - Complexity Science, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) – Member of the Leibniz Association, Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Department of Physics, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany
  • 3Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, Department Troposphere Research, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 4Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University in the City of New York, NY, USA
  • 5Department of Water, Environment, Construction and Safety, Magdeburg–Stendal University of Applied Sciences, Magdeburg, Germany

Abstract. The intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) is an important component of the tropical rain belt. Climate models continue to struggle to adequately represent the ITCZ and differ substantially in its simulated response to climate change. Here we employ complex network approaches, which extract spatio-temporal variability patterns from climate data, to better understand differences in the dynamics of the ITCZ in state-of-the-art global circulation models (GCMs). For this purpose, we study simulations with 14 GCMs in an idealized slab-ocean aquaplanet setup from TRACMIP – the Tropical Rain belts with an Annual cycle and a Continent Model Intercomparison Project. We construct network representations based on the spatial correlation pattern of monthly surface temperature anomalies and study the zonal mean patterns of different topological and spatial network characteristics. Specifically, we cluster the GCMs by means of their zonal network measure distribution utilizing hierarchical clustering. We find that in the control simulation, the zonal network measure distribution is able to pick up model differences in the tropical SST contrast, the ITCZ position and the strength of the Southern Hemisphere Hadley cell. Although we do not find evidence for consistent modifications in the network structure tracing the response of the ITCZ to global warming in the considered model ensemble, our analysis demonstrates that coherent variations of the global SST field are linked with ITCZ dynamics. This suggests that climate networks can provide a new perspective on ITCZ dynamics and model differences therein.

Frederik Wolf et al.

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Frederik Wolf et al.

Frederik Wolf et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
In our work, we employ complex networks to study the relation between the time mean position of the inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) and sea surface temperature (SST) variability. We show that zonal mean network measures encode information hidden in spatial SST correlation pattern. Additionally, we confirm the global character of the ITCZ. This research contributes to the ongoing discussion on drivers of the annual migration of the ITCZ and proposes a new approach to analyze model output.
In our work, we employ complex networks to study the relation between the time mean position of...