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Sardeshmukh P. D. and P. Sura (December 2007): Multiscale Impacts of Variable Heating in Climate. J. Climate, 20 (23), 5677-5695. doi:10.1175/2007JCLI1411.1

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While it is obvious that the mean diabatic forcing of the atmosphere is crucial for maintaining the mean climate, the importance of diabatic forcing fluctuations is less evident in this regard. Such fluctuations do not appear directly in the equations of the mean climate but affect the mean indirectly through their effects on the time-mean transient-eddy fluxes of heat, momentum, and moisture. How large are these effects? What are the effects of tropical phenomena associated with substantial heating variations such as ENSO and the MJO? To what extent do variations of the extratropical surface heat fluxes and precipitation affect the mean climate? What are the effects of the rapid “stochastic” components of the heating fluctuations? Most current climate models misrepresent ENSO and the MJO and ignore stochastic forcing; they therefore also misrepresent their mean effects. To what extent does this contribute to climate model biases and to projections of climate change? This paper provides an assessment of such impacts by comparing with observations a long simulation of the northern winter climate by a dry adiabatic general circulation model forced only with the observed time-mean diabatic forcing as a constant forcing. Remarkably, despite the total neglect of all forcing variations, the model reproduces most features of the observed circulation variability and the mean climate, with biases similar to those of some state-of-the-art general circulation models. In particular, the spatial structures of the circulation variability are remarkably well reproduced. Their amplitudes, however, are progressively underestimated from the synoptic to the subseasonal to interannual and longer time scales. This underestimation is attributed to the neglect of the variable forcing. The model also excites significant tropical variability from the extratropics on interannual scales, which is overwhelmed in reality by the response to tropical heating variability. It is argued that the results of this study suggest a role for the stochastic, and not only the coherent, components of transient diabatic forcing in the dynamics of climate variability and the mean climate.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: PSD Publications
Divisions: Physical Sciences Division
DOI: 10.1175/2007JCLI1411.1