Fast and slow responses to global warming: Sea surface temperature and precipitation patterns

TitleFast and slow responses to global warming: Sea surface temperature and precipitation patterns
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsLong S.M, Xie SP, Zheng XT, Liu QY
JournalJournal of Climate
Date Published2014/01
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0894-8755
Accession NumberWOS:000329276000019
Keywordscarbon-dioxide; circulation; climate change; CMIP5; Greenhouse gases; increased co2; interhemispheric asymmetry; mean response; ocean-atmosphere model; radiative forcing; Surface temperature; time scales; transient climate response; tropical pacific

The time-dependent response of sea surface temperature (SST) to global warming and the associated atmospheric changes are investigated based on a 1% yr(-1) CO2 increase to the quadrupling experiment of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model, version 2.1. The SST response consists of a fast component, for which the ocean mixed layer is in quasi equilibrium with the radiative forcing, and a slow component owing to the gradual warming of the deeper ocean in and beneath the thermocline. A diagnostic method is proposed to isolate spatial patterns of the fast and slow responses. The deep ocean warming retards the surface warming in the fast response but turns into a forcing for the slow response. As a result, the fast and slow responses are nearly opposite to each other in spatial pattern, especially over the subpolar North Atlantic/Southern Ocean regions of the deep-water/bottom-water formation, and in the interhemispheric SST gradient between the southern and northern subtropics. Wind-evaporation-SST feedback is an additional mechanism for the SST pattern formation in the tropics. Analyses of phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) multimodel ensemble of global warming simulations confirm the validity of the diagnostic method that separates the fast and slow responses. Tropical annual rainfall change follows the SST warming pattern in both the fast and slow responses in CMIP5, increasing where the SST increase exceeds the tropical mean warming.

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