The response of the ITCZ to extratropical thermal forcing: Idealized slab-ocean experiments with a GCM

Sarah M. Kang, Isaac M. Held, Dargan M.W. Frierson, Ming Zhao

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Using a comprehensive atmospheric GCM coupled to a slab mixed layer ocean, experiments are performed to study the mechanism by which displacements of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) are forced from the extratropics. The northern extratropics are cooled and the southern extratropics are warmed by an imposed cross-equatorial flux beneath the mixed layer, forcing a southward shift in the ITCZ. The ITCZ displacement can be understood in terms of the degree of compensation between the imposed oceanic flux and the resulting response in the atmospheric energy transport in the tropics. The magnitude of the ITCZ displacement is very sensitive to a parameter in the convection scheme that limits the entrainment into convective plumes. The change in the convection scheme affects the extratropical-tropical interactions in the model primarily by modifying the cloud response. The results raise the possibility that the response of tropical precipitation to extratropical thermal forcing, important for a variety of problems in climate dynamics (such as the response of the tropics to the Northern Hemisphere ice sheets during glacial maxima or to variations in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation), may be strongly dependent on cloud feedback. The model configuration described here is suggested as a useful benchmark helping to quantify extratropical-tropical interactions in atmospheric models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3521-3532
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 15 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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