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Modes of variability and climate change

G Branstator, FM Selten


A 62 member ensemble of coupled general circulation model (GCM) simulations of the years 1940-2080, including the effects of projected greenhouse gas increases, is examined. The focus is on the interplay between the trend in the Northern Hemisphere DJF mean state and the intrinsic modes of variability of the model atmosphere as given by the upper tropospheric meridional wind. The structure of the leading modes and the trend are similar. Two commonly proposed explanations for this similarity are considered.

Several results suggest that this similarity in most respects is consistent with an explanation involving patterns that result from the model dynamics being well-approximated by a linear system. Specifically, the leading intrinsic modes are similar to the leading modes of a stochastic model linearized about the mean state of the GCM atmosphere; trends in GCM tropical precipitation appear to excite the leading linear pattern; and the PDFs of prominent circulation patterns are quasi-Gaussian.

There are, on the other hand, some subtle indications that an explanation for the similarity involving preferred states (which necessarily result from nonlinear influences) has some relevance. For example, though unimodal, PDFs of prominent patterns have departures from Gaussianity that are suggestive of a mixture of two Gaussian components.

And there is some evidence of a shift in probability between the two components as the climate changes. Interestingly, contrary to the most prominent theory of the influence of nonlinearly produced preferred states on climate change, the centroids of the components also change as the climate changes. This modification of the system’s preferred states corresponds to a change in the structure of the its dominant patterns. The change in pattern structure is reproduced by the linear stochastic model when its basic state is modified to correspond to the trend in the general circulation model’s mean atmospheric state. Thus there is a two-way interaction between the trend and the modes of variability.

Bibliografische gegevens

G Branstator, FM Selten. Modes of variability and climate change
published, J. Climate, 2009, 22

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