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Discussion papers | Copyright
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 26 Jun 2018

Research article | 26 Jun 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics (NPG).

Exploring the sensitivity of the large-scale atmosphere circulation to changes in surface temperature gradients using a Statistical-Dynamical Atmosphere Model

Sonja Totz1,2, Stefan Petri1, Jascha Lehmann1, Erik Peukert1,2, and Dim Coumou1,3 Sonja Totz et al.
  • 1Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, German
  • 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, jets, storm tracks and planetary waves.

Here, we use a statistical-dynamical atmosphere model (SDAM) to analyse the sensitivity of the Northern Hemisphere dynamical components to changes in temperature fields by systematically altering the zonal temperature asymmetry and meridional temperature gradient as well as the global mean temperature. 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 asymmetry has little or no influence. The magnitude of planetary waves is clearly affected by all three temperature components. The width of the Hadley cell behaves nonlinearly with respect to all three temperature components.

Under global warming the temperature gradients are expected to change: Enhanced warming is expected in the Arctic, largely near the surface, and at the equator at high altitudes, altering the meridional temperature gradient. Further, land-ocean contrasts will change due to enhanced land warming. Also there is a pronounced seasonality to these warming patterns. Using SDAMs to disentangle and separately analyse the effect of individual temperature changes can help to understand observed and projected changes in large-scale atmosphere dynamics.

Moreover, some of these observed large-scale atmospheric changes are expected from dynamical equations and therefore an important part of model validation.

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