The distribution of precipitation and the spread in tropical upper tropospheric temperature trends in CMIP5/AMIP simulations

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Abstract

Reconciling observations and simulations of tropical upper tropospheric temperature trends remains an important problem in climate science. Examining atmospheric models running over observed sea surface temperatures (SSTs), Flannaghan et al. (2014) show that this reconciliation is affected by the SST data set used and that a precipitation-weighted SST (PSST) is valuable in explaining this result. Here we show that even for Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5 AMIP) simulations forced with identical SSTs, tropical upper tropospheric temperature trends across models (and between ensemble members) show a substantial spread (standard deviation ∼10% of the average trend). About 60% of this spread between ensemble means, as well as deviations from the ensemble means, can be explained by PSST calculated from the time-evolving precipitation in each model run. Both PSST and atmospheric temperature trends show statistical evidence for systematic differences between models. We conclude that the response of precipitation patterns to changes in SST patterns is a significant source of uncertainty for tropical temperature trends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6000-6007
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume42
Issue number14
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 28 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Geophysics

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