Impacts of Vertical Structure of Convection on Tropical Circulation in a Warmer Climate

Monday, 15 December 2014
Chao An Chen1 and Chia Chou1,2, (1)Research Center for Environmental Changes Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, (2)National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
The atmosphere becomes warmer and more humid under global warming, while changes in precipitation show a large discrepancy on a regional scale. Changes in regional precipitation are usually associated with changes in tropical circulation. Stronger (weaker) upward motion enhances (reduces) precipitation amount and intensity, in addition to the effect of enhanced water vapor. In a more detailed analysis, however, changes in atmospheric vertical motion can be either strengthened or weakened, even within convective areas with positive rainfall anomalies. To understand the diverse responses of changes in tropical circulation in a warmer climate as well as the associated mechanism, atmospheric stability and the impact of the vertical structure of convection on tropical circulation are investigated in 32 coupled global climate models from CMIP3 and CMIP5. The study regions are convective areas with positive precipitation anomalies. Under global warming, an upward shift structure of vertical velocity is observed in all model simulations, which implies a deepening of convection and a more stable atmosphere. Areas with enhanced (weakened) ascending motion, the climatological bottom-heavy (top-heavy) structure of vertical velocity tends to import more (less) moist static energy to counteract the stabilization due to the effect of deepened convection, and then the ascending motion is strengthened (weakened). The bottom-heavy-like structure is dominated by shallow convection, while the top-heavy-like structure is usually associated with deep convection. In other words, shallow convection tends to strengthen tropical circulation and enhance upward motion in future climate.