Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - ATMOSOCEAN (Response of the Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation to a Warming Climate)

The overall objective of the project is to better understand the robustness and the underlying dynamics of the response of the general circulation of the atmosphere and ocean to a warming climate and the interaction with natural variability. More specifically, we seek to address the following question: to what extent will the large-scale structure of the circulation change if and when the climate as a whole changes? As well as studying the present circulation of the atmosphere, the project involves studying the atmospheres of Earth-like planets in a different parameter regime, in order to better understand the possible range of circulations of our planet as climate changes.

Since the project began, the following work has been performed:
We have developed a hierarchy of models of the atmosphere of Earth and other terrestrial planets. The models span a range from being highly idealised models with a simple thermal forcing, through models with a simple radiation scheme, to models with a realistic radiation scheme and configurable continents and topography. The models have also been extended so that the the mass, incoming radiation, obliquity, rotation rate and various other parameters can be easily configured.

We have begun to use the models to investigate changes in atmospheric circulation as the planet warms, and have already obtained many interesting results. We have found that the onset of the South East Asian monsoon is affected both by eddy effects and, more conventionally, by the configuration of land and ocean.

We have also investigated the robustness of changes in the atmospheric structure due to global warming using CMIP5 models, and found that 'dynamical' changes are much less consistently reproduced than thermodynamic changes. We find that shifts in the position and intensity of the mid-latitude westerlies, and the extent of the Hadley Cell, are inconsistently reproduced by models. In contrast, the increase in height of the tropopause is consistently reproduced by models, in line with some theoretical expectations that we have developed. Many of these results are available from the website of the project PI,

These results are very relevant to the problem of climate change, for they demonstrate where the main uncertainties lie with regard to the impact that global warming will have on society.

Reported by

United Kingdom


Life Sciences
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