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Large Uncertainty in the Relative Rates of Dynamical and Hydrological Tropical Expansion
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  • Source:
    Geophysical Research Letters, 45(2), 1106-1113.
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  • Description:
    Climate models predict that the Hadley circulation will expand poleward in a warmer climate, a trend which may cause significant changes in global precipitation patterns. However, recent studies have disagreed as to how strongly changes in the Hadley circulation and changes in the hydrological cycle (specifically the latitude at which precipitation balances evaporation) are related. Here we analyze dynamical and hydrological measures of the Southern Hemisphere edge of the tropics using simulations from the fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) and four reanalysis data sets. In simulations with an abrupt quadrupling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations, all models show a poleward expansion in both metrics. However, there is a large spread among models; the ratio of the hydrological to dynamical expansions varies from 0.6 to 1.4. We show that this model spread can be largely explained by differences in internal variability, which in turn is related to the mean state of models. Differences in mean states among reanalyses are similar to those of models, and so reanalyses do not help constrain uncertainty in model trends.
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