Response of the Midlatitude Jets, and of Their Variability, to Increased Greenhouse Gases in the CMIP5 Models

Barnes, Elizabeth A.; Polvani, Lorenzo M.

This work documents how the midlatitude, eddy-driven jets respond to climate change using model output from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). The authors consider separately the North Atlantic, the North Pacific, and the Southern Hemisphere jets. The analysis is not limited to annual-mean changes in the latitude and speed of the jets, but also explores how the variability of each jet changes with increased greenhouse gases.
All jets are found to migrate poleward with climate change: the Southern Hemisphere jet shifts poleward by 2° of latitude between the historical period and the end of the twenty-first century in the representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) scenario, whereas both Northern Hemisphere jets shift by only 1°. In addition, the speed of the Southern Hemisphere jet is found to increase markedly (by 1.2 m s−1 between 850 and 700 hPa), while the speed remains nearly constant for both jets in the Northern Hemisphere.
More importantly, it is found that the patterns of jet variability are a strong function of the jet position in all three sectors of the globe, and as the jets shift poleward the patterns of variability change. Specifically, for the Southern Hemisphere and the North Atlantic jets, the variability becomes less of a north–south wobbling and more of a pulsing (i.e., variation in jet speed). In contrast, for the North Pacific jet, the variability becomes less of a pulsing and more of a north–south wobbling. These different responses can be understood in terms of Rossby wave breaking, allowing the authors to explain most of the projected jet changes within a single dynamical framework.


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Journal of Climate

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