J. Climate, submitted 3/10.

Projected future changes in tropical summer climate

Adam H. Sobel
Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, New York, NY.

Suzana J. Camargo
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, NY


The authors analyze changes in the tropical sea surface temperature (SST), surface wind and other fields from the 20th to the 21st century in climate projections using the CMIP3 multimodel ensemble, focusing on the seasons January-March (JFM) and July-September (JAS). When the annual mean change is subtracted, the remaining "seasonal changes" have robust, coherent structures. The JFM and JAS changes resemble each other very closely after either a change of sign or reflection about the equator. The seasonal changes include an increase in the summer hemisphere SST and a decrease in the winter hemisphere SST. These appear to be thermodynamic consequences of easterly trade winds' strengthening in the winter subtropics and weakening in the summer subtropics. These in turn are associated with the weakening and expansion of the Hadley circulation documented by previous studies, which themselves are likely consequences of changes in extratropical eddies. The seasonal SST changes influence the environment for deep convection: peak precipitation in the summer hemisphere increases by around 10% and convective available potential energy (CAPE) by as much as 25%. Comparable fractions of these changes are attributable to the annual mean change and the seasonal changes, though the two have very different spatial structures. Since the annual mean change is marked by relative warming in the northern hemisphere compared to the southern, the seasonal changes oppose the annual mean change in JFM and enhance it in JAS.