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Uncertainty in tropical rainfall projections: Atmospheric circulation effect and the ocean coupling

TitleUncertainty in tropical rainfall projections: Atmospheric circulation effect and the ocean coupling
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsLong S.M, Xie SP
JournalJournal of Climate
Date Published2016/04
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0894-8755
Accession NumberWOS:000372933200001
KeywordsAtm/Ocean Structure/ Phenomena; Atmosphere-ocean; Atmospheric circulation; Circulation/ Dynamics; climate change; climate models; Climatology; CMIP5; feedbacks; future projections; Geographic location/entity; hydrological cycle; interaction; mechanisms; Models and modeling; multimodel ensemble; patterns; Physical Meteorology and; precipitation; precipitation change; regional climate-change; sea-surface temperature; Tropics

Uncertainty in tropical rainfall projections under increasing radiative forcing is studied by using 26 models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. Intermodel spread in projected rainfall change generally increases with interactive sea surface temperature (SST) warming in coupled models compared to atmospheric models with a common pattern of prescribed SST increase. Moisture budget analyses reveal that much of the model uncertainty in tropical rainfall projections originates from intermodel discrepancies in the dynamical contribution due to atmospheric circulation change. Intermodel singular value decomposition (SVD) analyses further show a tight coupling between the intermodel variations in SST warming pattern and circulation change in the tropics. In the zonal mean, the first SVD mode features an anomalous interhemispheric Hadley circulation, while the second mode displays an SST peak near the equator. The asymmetric mode is accompanied by a coupled pattern of wind-evaporation-SST feedback in the tropics and is further tied to interhemispheric asymmetric change in extratropical shortwave radiative flux at the top of the atmosphere. Intermodel variability in the tropical circulation change exerts a strong control on the spread in tropical cloud cover change and cloud radiative effects among models. The results indicate that understanding the coupling between the anthropogenic changes in SST pattern and atmospheric circulation holds the key to reducing uncertainties in projections of future changes in tropical rainfall and clouds.

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