Improved clouds over Southern Ocean amplify Antarctic precipitation response to ozone depletion in an earth system model

Increasing precipitation on the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) in a warming climate has the potential to partially mitigate Antarctica’s contribution to sea level rise. We show that a simple, physically motivated change to the shallow convective cloud phase in the Community Earth System Model (CESM)—improving a long-standing bias in shortwave cloud forcing over the Southern Ocean—leads to an enhanced response of precipitation when the model is forced with realistic stratospheric ozone depletion, with other radiative forcing remaining constant. We analyze two ozone-forced ensemble experiments with the CESM version 1.1: one using the standard version of the model and the other using the cloud-modified version. The standard version exhibits a precipitation increase on the AIS of 34 gigatons year−1; the cloud-modified version shows an increase of 109 Gt year−1. The cloud-modified version shows a more robust, year-round poleward shift in the westerly jet and storm tracks, which brings more precipitation to the AIS, compared to the standard version. Greater surface warming and larger-amplitude stationary waves further increase the Antarctic precipitation response. The enhanced warming in the cloud-modified version is explained by larger positive shortwave cloud feedbacks, while the enhanced poleward jet shift is associated with a stronger meridional temperature gradient in the upper troposphere—lower stratosphere. These results illustrate (1) the sensitivity of forced changes in Antarctic precipitation to the mean state of a climate model and (2) the strong role of atmospheric dynamics in driving that forced precipitation response.

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Author Schneider, David P.
Kay, Jennifer E.
Lenaerts, Jan
Publisher UCAR/NCAR - Library
Publication Date 2020-09-01T00:00:00
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Topic Category geoscientificInformation
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Metadata Date 2023-08-18T18:32:12.478181
Metadata Record Identifier edu.ucar.opensky::articles:23478
Metadata Language eng; USA
Suggested Citation Schneider, David P., Kay, Jennifer E., Lenaerts, Jan. (2020). Improved clouds over Southern Ocean amplify Antarctic precipitation response to ozone depletion in an earth system model. UCAR/NCAR - Library. Accessed 26 September 2023.

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