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Time-evolving sea surface warming patterns modulate the climate change response of subtropical precipitation over land

Zappa, G., Ceppi, P. and Shepherd, T. G. (2020) Time-evolving sea surface warming patterns modulate the climate change response of subtropical precipitation over land. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117 (9). pp. 4539-4545. ISSN 0027-8424

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1911015117


Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions affect precipitation worldwide. The response is commonly described by two timescales linked to different processes: a rapid adjustment to radiative forcing, followed by a slower response to surface warming. However, additional timescales exist in the surface warming response, tied to the time evolution of the sea surface temperature (SST) response. Here we show that in climate model projections the rapid adjustment and surface mean warming are insufficient to explain the time evolution of the hydro-climate response in three key Mediterranean-like areas, namely California, Chile and the Mediterranean. The time evolution of those responses critically depends on distinct shifts in the regional atmospheric circulation associated with the existence of distinct fast and slow SST warming patterns. As a result, Mediterranean and Chilean drying are in quasi-equilibrium with GHG concentrations, meaning that the drying will not continue after GHG concentrations are stabilised, whereas California wetting will largely emerge only after GHG concentrations are stabilised. The rapid adjustment contributes to a reduction in precipitation but has a limited impact on the balance between precipitation and evaporation. In these Mediterranean-like regions, future hydro-climate related impacts will be substantially modulated by the time evolution of the pattern of SST warming that is realised in the real world.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:88519
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences


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