Davis Sean M.

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Sean M.

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  • Article
    Revisiting the relationship among metrics of tropical expansion
    (American Meteorological Society, 2018-08-08) Waugh, Darryn W. ; Grise, Kevin M. ; Seviour, William J. M. ; Davis, Sean M. ; Davis, Nicholas ; Adam, Ori ; Son, Seok-Woo ; Simpson, Isla R. ; Staten, Paul W. ; Maycock, Amanda C. ; Ummenhofer, Caroline C. ; Birner, Thomas ; Ming, Alison
    There is mounting evidence that the width of the tropics has increased over the last few decades, but there are large differences in reported expansion rates. This is, likely, in part due to the wide variety of metrics that have been used to define the tropical width. Here we perform a systematic investigation into the relationship among nine metrics of the zonal-mean tropical width using preindustrial control and abrupt quadrupling of CO2 simulations from a suite of coupled climate models. It is shown that the latitudes of the edge of the Hadley cell, the midlatitude eddy-driven jet, the edge of the subtropical dry zones, and the Southern Hemisphere subtropical high covary interannually and exhibit similar long-term responses to a quadrupling of CO2. However, metrics based on the outgoing longwave radiation, the position of the subtropical jet, the break in the tropopause, and the Northern Hemisphere subtropical high have very weak covariations with the above metrics and/or respond differently to increases in CO2 and thus are not good indicators of the expansion of the Hadley cell or subtropical dry zone. The differing variability and responses to increases in CO2 among metrics highlights that care is needed when choosing metrics for studies of the width of the tropics and that it is important to make sure the metric used is appropriate for the specific phenomena and impacts being examined.
  • Article
    Recent tropical expansion: natural variability or forced response?
    (American Meteorological Society, 2019-02-06) Grise, Kevin M. ; Davis, Sean M. ; Simpson, Isla R. ; Waugh, Darryn W. ; Fu, Qiang ; Allen, Robert J. ; Rosenlof, Karen H. ; Ummenhofer, Caroline C. ; Karnauskas, Kristopher B. ; Maycock, Amanda C. ; Quan, Xiao-Wei ; Birner, Thomas ; Staten, Paul W.
    Previous studies have documented a poleward shift in the subsiding branches of Earth’s Hadley circulation since 1979 but have disagreed on the causes of these observed changes and the ability of global climate models to capture them. This synthesis paper reexamines a number of contradictory claims in the past literature and finds that the tropical expansion indicated by modern reanalyses is within the bounds of models’ historical simulations for the period 1979–2005. Earlier conclusions that models were underestimating the observed trends relied on defining the Hadley circulation using the mass streamfunction from older reanalyses. The recent observed tropical expansion has similar magnitudes in the annual mean in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) and Southern Hemisphere (SH), but models suggest that the factors driving the expansion differ between the hemispheres. In the SH, increasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) and stratospheric ozone depletion contributed to tropical expansion over the late twentieth century, and if GHGs continue increasing, the SH tropical edge is projected to shift further poleward over the twenty-first century, even as stratospheric ozone concentrations recover. In the NH, the contribution of GHGs to tropical expansion is much smaller and will remain difficult to detect in a background of large natural variability, even by the end of the twenty-first century. To explain similar recent tropical expansion rates in the two hemispheres, natural variability must be taken into account. Recent coupled atmosphere–ocean variability, including the Pacific decadal oscillation, has contributed to tropical expansion. However, in models forced with observed sea surface temperatures, tropical expansion rates still vary widely because of internal atmospheric variability.
  • Article
    Tropical widening from global variations to regional impacts
    (American Meteorological Society, 2020-06-01) Staten, Paul W. ; Grise, Kevin M. ; Davis, Sean M. ; Karnauskas, Kristopher B. ; Waugh, Darryn W. ; Maycock, Amanda C. ; Fu, Qiang ; Cook, Kerry ; Adam, Ori ; Simpson, Isla R. ; Allen, Robert J. ; Rosenlof, Karen H. ; Chen, Gang ; Ummenhofer, Caroline C. ; Quan, Xiao-Wei ; Kossin, James P. ; Davis, Nicholas A. ; Son, Seok-Woo
    Over the past 15 years, numerous studies have suggested that the sinking branches of Earth’s Hadley circulation and the associated subtropical dry zones have shifted poleward over the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century. Early estimates of this tropical widening from satellite observations and reanalyses varied from 0.25° to 3° latitude per decade, while estimates from global climate models show widening at the lower end of the observed range. In 2016, two working groups, the U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) working group on the Changing Width of the Tropical Belt and the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) Tropical Width Diagnostics Intercomparison Project, were formed to synthesize current understanding of the magnitude, causes, and impacts of the recent tropical widening evident in observations. These working groups concluded that the large rates of observed tropical widening noted by earlier studies resulted from their use of metrics that poorly capture changes in the Hadley circulation, or from the use of reanalyses that contained spurious trends. Accounting for these issues reduces the range of observed expansion rates to 0.25°–0.5° latitude decade‒1—within the range from model simulations. Models indicate that most of the recent Northern Hemisphere tropical widening is consistent with natural variability, whereas increasing greenhouse gases and decreasing stratospheric ozone likely played an important role in Southern Hemisphere widening. Whatever the cause or rate of expansion, understanding the regional impacts of tropical widening requires additional work, as different forcings can produce different regional patterns of widening.
  • Article
    Designing the climate observing system of the future
    (John Wiley & Sons, 2018-01-23) Weatherhead, Elizabeth C. ; Wielicki, Bruce A. ; Ramaswamy, Venkatachalam ; Abbott, Mark ; Ackerman, Thomas P. ; Atlas, Robert ; Brasseur, Guy ; Bruhwiler, Lori ; Busalacchi, Antonio J. ; Butler, James H. ; Clack, Christopher T. M. ; Cooke, Roger ; Cucurull, Lidia ; Davis, Sean M. ; English, Jason M. ; Fahey, David W. ; Fine, Steven S. ; Lazo, Jeffrey K. ; Liang, Shunlin ; Loeb, Norman G. ; Rignot, Eric ; Soden, Brian ; Stanitski, Diane ; Stephens, Graeme ; Tapley, Byron D. ; Thompson, Anne M. ; Trenberth, Kevin E. ; Wuebbles, Donald
    Climate observations are needed to address a large range of important societal issues including sea level rise, droughts, floods, extreme heat events, food security, and freshwater availability in the coming decades. Past, targeted investments in specific climate questions have resulted in tremendous improvements in issues important to human health, security, and infrastructure. However, the current climate observing system was not planned in a comprehensive, focused manner required to adequately address the full range of climate needs. A potential approach to planning the observing system of the future is presented in this article. First, this article proposes that priority be given to the most critical needs as identified within the World Climate Research Program as Grand Challenges. These currently include seven important topics: melting ice and global consequences; clouds, circulation and climate sensitivity; carbon feedbacks in the climate system; understanding and predicting weather and climate extremes; water for the food baskets of the world; regional sea-level change and coastal impacts; and near-term climate prediction. For each Grand Challenge, observations are needed for long-term monitoring, process studies and forecasting capabilities. Second, objective evaluations of proposed observing systems, including satellites, ground-based and in situ observations as well as potentially new, unidentified observational approaches, can quantify the ability to address these climate priorities. And third, investments in effective climate observations will be economically important as they will offer a magnified return on investment that justifies a far greater development of observations to serve society's needs.