Separating climate change signals into thermodynamic, lapse-rate and circulation effects: theory and application to the European summer climate
Fischer, Erich M.
- Journal Article
Rights / licenseCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
Climate models robustly project a strong overall summer warming across Europe showing a characteristic north-south gradient with enhanced warming and drying in southern Europe. However, the processes that are responsible for this pattern are not fully understood. We here employ an extended surrogate or pseudo-warming approach to disentangle the contribution of different mechanisms to this response pattern. The basic idea of the surrogate technique is to use a regional climate model and apply a large-scale warming to the lateral boundary conditions of a present-day reference simulation, while maintaining the relative humidity (and thus implicitly increasing the specific moisture content). In comparison to previous studies, our approach includes two important extensions: first, different vertical warming profiles are applied in order to separate the effects of a mean warming from lapse-rate effects. Second, a twin-design is used, in which the climate change signals are not only added to present-day conditions, but also subtracted from a scenario experiment. We demonstrate that these extensions provide an elegant way to separate the full climate change signal into contributions from large-scale thermodynamic (TD), lapse-rate (LR), and circulation and other remaining effects (CO). The latter in particular include changes in land-ocean contrast and spatial variations of the SST warming patterns. We find that the TD effect yields a large-scale warming across Europe with no distinct latitudinal gradient. The LR effect, which is quantified for the first time in our study, leads to a stronger warming and some drying in southern Europe. It explains about 50 % of the warming amplification over the Iberian Peninsula, thus demonstrating the important role of lapse-rate changes. The effect is linked to an extending Hadley circulation. The CO effect as inherited from the driving GCM is shown to further amplify the north-south temperature change gradient. In terms of mean summer precipitation the TD effect leads to a significant overall increase in precipitation all across Europe, which is compensated and regionally reversed by the LR and CO effects in particular in southern Europe Show more
Journal / seriesClimate Dynamics
Pages / Article No.
SubjectSurrogate climate change; Regional climate modelling; Thermodynamic effects; Lapse-rate effects; Circulation effects
Organisational unit03360 - Schär, Christoph
03777 - Knutti, Reto
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