Observational constraints on atmospheric and oceanic cross-equatorial heat transports: revisiting the precipitation asymmetry problem in climate models
Loeb, N. G., Wang, H., Cheng, A., Kato, S., Fasullo, J. T., Xu, K.-M. and Allan, R. (2016) Observational constraints on atmospheric and oceanic cross-equatorial heat transports: revisiting the precipitation asymmetry problem in climate models. Climate Dynamics, 46 (9-10). pp. 3239-3257. ISSN 0930-7575
To link to this article DOI: 10.1007/s00382-015-2766-z
Satellite based top-of-atmosphere (TOA) and surface radiation budget observations are combined with mass corrected vertically integrated atmospheric energy divergence and tendency from reanalysis to infer the regional distribution of the TOA, atmospheric and surface energy budget terms over the globe. Hemispheric contrasts in the energy budget terms are used to determine the radiative and combined sensible and latent heat contributions to the cross-equatorial heat transports in the atmosphere (AHT_EQ) and ocean (OHT_EQ). The contrast in net atmospheric radiation implies an AHT_EQ from the northern hemisphere (NH) to the southern hemisphere (SH) (0.75 PW), while the hemispheric difference in sensible and latent heat implies an AHT_EQ in the opposite direction (0.51 PW), resulting in a net NH to SH AHT_EQ (0.24 PW). At the surface, the hemispheric contrast in the radiative component (0.95 PW) dominates, implying a 0.44 PW SH to NH OHT_EQ. Coupled model intercomparison project phase 5 (CMIP5) models with excessive net downward surface radiation and surface-to-atmosphere sensible and latent heat transport in the SH relative to the NH exhibit anomalous northward AHT_EQ and overestimate SH tropical precipitation. The hemispheric bias in net surface radiative flux is due to too much longwave surface radiative cooling in the NH tropics in both clear and all-sky conditions and excessive shortwave surface radiation in the SH subtropics and extratropics due to an underestimation in reflection by clouds.