The role of tropical, midlatitude, and polar cloud-radiative changes for the midlatitude circulation response to global warming

Nicole Albern, Aiko Voigt, David W. J. Thompson, Joaquim G. Pinto

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Abstract

Previous studies showed that global cloud-radiative changes contribute half or more to the midlatitude atmospheric circulation response to global warming. Here, we investigate the relative importance of tropical, midlatitude, and polar cloud-radiative changes for the annual-mean, wintertime, and summertime circulation response across regions in AMIP-like simulations. To this end, we study global warming simulations from the ICON model run with the cloud-locking method and prescribed sea surface temperatures, which isolate the impact of changes in atmospheric cloud-radiative heating. Tropical cloud changes dominate the global cloud impact on the 850 hPa zonal wind, jet strength, and storm track responses across most seasons and regions. For the jet shift, a more diverse picture is found. In the annual mean and DJF, tropical and midlatitude cloud changes contribute substantially to the poleward jet shift in all regions. The poleward jet shift is further supported by polar cloud changes across the Northern Hemisphere but not in the Southern Hemisphere. In JJA, the impact of regional cloud changes on the jet position is small, consistent with an overall small jet shift during this season. The jet shift can be largely understood via the anomalous atmospheric cloud-radiative heating in the tropical and midlatitude upper troposphere. The circulation changes are broadly consistent with the influence of cloud-radiative changes on upper-tropospheric baroclinicity and thus the mean potential energy available for conversion into eddy kinetic energy. Our results help to explain the jet response to global warming and highlight the importance of tropical and midlatitude cloud-radiative changes for this response.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7927–7943
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Climate
Volume33
Issue number18
Early online date17 Aug 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2020

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