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GFDL Research Highlights

February 24th, 2012 - Transport of Asian ozone pollution into surface air over the western United States in spring

As Asian countries develop, they are emitting more ozone precursors that pollute surface level air. Many studies have documented this pollution being carried by air currents to the western United States. To determine the extent to which this pollution is affecting air quality in the western U.S., we analyzed balloon soundings, aircraft, surface and satellite measurements from May through June 2010 using a new global high-resolution chemistry-climate model. Our findings indicate that Asian pollution contributes as much as 20 percent of total ozone during springtime pollution episodes in western U.S. surface air. Read More…

February 14th, 2012 - Will open ocean oxygen stress intensify under climate change?

Ten percent of today’s ocean volume is characterized by low level of dissolved oxygen similar to those found in the well-known “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico with 35% of global surface waters overlying at least some of this “hypoxia” (O2 < 88 µM;2ml l-1). Under global warming, higher temperatures would be expected to directly lower oxygen concentrations and enhanced stratification to reduce the flow of well-ventilated surface waters to the interior. Under such circumstances, it has been hypothesized that the open-ocean dead zones could greatly expand and indeed changes in low-oxygen waters have been invoked as evidence of climate change. Read More…

January 24th, 2012 - Pathways Between Primary Production and Fisheries Yields of Large Marine Ecosystems

There is considerable uncertainty in projections of the impacts of climate on fisheries yields due to uncertainties in climate change impacts on primary production and the processes controlling how much primary production is transferred to fish. Primary production and proxies such as chlorophyll have proven to be useful predictors of fisheries yields at regional scales but show much less skill when applied globally. The marine food web dynamics that control the transfer of energy from phytoplankton to fish are complex and the relationship between primary production and fisheries production may differ dramatically between ecosystems due to changes in planktonic food web structure. Read More…

September 29th, 2011 - Anthropogenic Aerosols and the Weakening of the South Asian Summer Monsoon

An important part of the global water cycle, the South Asian summer monsoon provides about 80% of the region’s annual precipitation, and touches the lives of more than 20% of the world’s population. Using the NOAA/GFDL state-of-the-art global climate model that accounts for all the known natural and anthropogenic forcings, we have investigated what caused the observed decrease in the South Asian summer monsoon rainfall over the second half of the 20th century. Was the widespread drying due to natural factors or human activities? If the latter, what were the relative contributions of anthropogenic greenhouse gases and aerosols? Answering these questions poses a challenging test on our fundamental knowledge of the changes to the Earth’s hydrological cycle, and on our ability to understand and project future regional climate change. Read More…

September 12th, 2011 - Climatological characteristics of Arctic and Antarctic surface-based inversions

Surface-based inversions (SBI) are frequent features of the Arctic and Antarctic atmospheric boundary layer and influence important climate processes. However, prior to this study, climatological polar SBI properties had not been fully characterized, nor had climate model simulations of SBIs been compared comprehensively to observations. Using 20 years of radiosonde observations, and simulations from two state-of-the-art climate models, this study examines the spatial and temporal variability of three SBI characteristics – frequency of occurrence, depth (from the surface to the inversion top), and intensity (temperature difference over the SBI depth) – and relationships among them. Read More…

July 3rd, 2011 - Different magnitudes of projected subsurface ocean warming around Greenland and Antarctica

Recent acceleration of Greenland and Antarctic outlet glaciers and ice flows is closely linked to ocean warming, especially in the subsurface layer. This land ice melt will cause sea level rise.

We find that in response to an increase in atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations, the subsurface oceans (200-500 m) surrounding the two polar ice sheets both warm substantially more than has been observed thus far. Model projections suggest that the maximum ocean warming around Greenland will be double the global mean, whereas ocean warming around Antarctica will be only half the global mean. Read More…

July 1st, 2011 - The GFDL CM3 model

Earlier generations of climate models at GFDL have specified cloud properties to be independent of atmospheric aerosol composition, despite fairly well-understood (at least for liquid clouds) dependence of cloud droplet number on aerosol composition and size distribution. Cloud drop number in turn exerts a major control on cloud radiation, notably albedo, and microphysics and macrophysics, notably cloud structure and lifetimes. Aerosol-cloud interactions are likely to be important in anthropogenic climate change. They have been difficult to incorporate in climate models because they occur at scales much smaller than resolved by climate models. CM3 parameterizes these smaller scales using probability distribution functions for motions smaller than those it explicitly resolves. Read More…

July 1st, 2011 - Sensitivity of the aerosol indirect effect to subgrid variability in the cloud parameterization of the GFDL Atmosphere General Circulation Model AM3

The recently developed GFDL AM3 model (Donner et. al 2011) incorporates a prognostic treatment of cloud drop number to simulate the aerosol indirect effect. The present work explores formulation sensitivities by constructing three alternate model configurations (S1, S2, S3). These alternate configurations exhibit only small differences in their present day climatology. Read More…

June 5th, 2011 - Raining from the Ground Up

Though it is obvious that rainfall moistens the land surface, our scientific understanding of how land surface moisture may interact with the atmosphere to encourage or suppress subsequent rainfall is limited. Using data from the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR, Mesinger et al., 2006), this study shows that the likelihood of afternoon rainfall in the eastern United States and Mexico is strongly linked to evaporation from the land surface earlier in the day. Read More…

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