Climatic Change

, Volume 31, Issue 2–4, pp 427–453 | Cite as

Atmospheric circulation climate changes

  • Kevin E. Trenberth
Article

Abstract

The role of the atmospheric circulation in climate change is examined. A review is given of the information available in the past record on the atmosheric circulation and its role in climate change, firstly at the surface via sea level pressure in both the northern and southern hemispheres and secondly for the free atmosphere. As with most climate information, the climate record is compromised by non-physical inhomogeneities arising from changes in observing and analyzing techniques and changes in data coverage. Problems with and threats to the rawinsonde network are discussed. Global analyses produced by the operational centers, U.S. National Meteorological Center (NMC) and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), for weather forecasting purposes contain many discontinuous changes in the analyses arising from improvements in the system used to produce them. A discussion is given of the prospects for and motivation behind an activity known as ‘reanalysis’ in which the historical data are reanalyzed using a state-of-the-art system that is held constant for the entire record. The only sources of spurious change then are the changes in the observing system, such as the introduction of space-based observations. Recommendations are made on needed actions for better understanding and monitoring climate change.

The role of the atmospheric circulation and the strong links to other variables such as temperature, precipitation and wind are established and illustrated with a survey of decadal variability, the evidence for it, and the way in which the observed atmospheric circulation is involved in the Pacific and Atlantic sectors. The importance of teleconnections is stressed, especially in the winter half year, for understanding local climate change. The likelihood that changes will be manifested in the frequency and intensity of preferred modes of behavior in the atmosphere, such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and Pacific-North American teleconnection patterns, rather than in changes in the modes is also emphasized. The recently observed climate changes and the tendency for an unprecedented prolonged El Niño are interpreted in this framework. The key coupled atmosphere-ocean character of decadal variability is noted with the atmosphere providing the spatial scales, the ocean the memory, but also with the need for collaborative, as opposed to destructive, interactions through the atmospheric circulation.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Beamish, R. J. and Bouillon, D. R.: 1993, ‘Pacific Salmon Production Trends in Relation to Climate’,Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 50, 1002–1016.Google Scholar
  2. Bengtsson, L. and Shukla, J.: 1988, ‘Integration of Space and In Situ Observations to Study Global Climate Change’,Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 69, 1130–1143.Google Scholar
  3. Brodeur, R. D. and Ware, D. M.: 1995, ‘Interdecadal Variability in Distribution and Catch Rates of Epipelagic Nekton in the Northeast Pacific Ocean’, in R. J. Beamish (ed.)Climate Change and Northern Fish Populations. Canad. Spec. Publ. Fisheries Aquatic Sci. 121, 329–356.Google Scholar
  4. Buchan, A.: 1869, ‘The Mean Pressure of the Atmosphere and the Prevailing Winds over the Globe’,Trans. Roy. Soc. Edinb. 25, 575–637.Google Scholar
  5. Cayan, D. R.: 1992, ‘Latent and Sensible Heat Flux Anomalies over the Northern Oceans: The Connection to Monthly Atmospheric Circulation’,J. Clim. 5, 354–369.Google Scholar
  6. Chen, T.-C., van Loon, H., Wu, K.-D., and Yen, M.-C.: 1992, ‘Changes in the Atmospheric Circulation over the North Pacific-North America Area since 1950’,J. Met. Soc. Japan 70, 1137–1146.Google Scholar
  7. Courtier, P., Derber, J., Errico, R., Louis, J-F., and Vukićevic, T.: 1993, ‘Important Literature on the Use of Adjoint, Variational Methods and the Kalman Filter in Meteorology’,Tellus 45A, 342–357.Google Scholar
  8. Dansgaard, W., Johnsen, S. J., Clausen, H. B., Dahl-Jensen, D., Gundestrup, N. S., Hammer, C. U., Hvidberg, C. S., Steffensen, J. P., Sveinbjornsdottir, A. E., Jouzel, J., and Bond, G.: 1993, ‘Evidence for General Instability of Past Climate from a 250-kyr Ice-Record’,Nature 364, 218–220.Google Scholar
  9. Delworth, T., Manabe, S., and Stouffer, R. J.: 1993, ‘Interdecadal Variations of the Thermohaline Circulation in a Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Model’,J. Clim. 6, 1993–2011.Google Scholar
  10. Deser, C. and Blackmon, M. L.: 1993, ‘Surface Climae Variations over the North Atlantic Ocean During Winter: 1900–1989’,J. Clim. 6, 1743–1753.Google Scholar
  11. Elliot, W. P. and Gaffen, D. J.: 1991, ‘On the Utility of Radiosonde Humidity Archives for Climate Studies’,Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 72, 1507–1520.Google Scholar
  12. Elliot, W. P. and Gaffen, D. J.: 1993, ‘Effects of Conversion Algorithms on Reported Upper-Air Dewpoint Depressions’,Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 74, 1323–1325.Google Scholar
  13. Epstein, E. S.: 1988, ‘Long-Range Weather Prediction: Limits of Predictability and Beyond’,Wea. Forecast. 3, 69–75.Google Scholar
  14. Gaffen, D. J.: 1994, ‘Temporal Inhomogeneities in Radiosonde Temperature Records’,J. Geophys. Res. 99, 3667–3676.Google Scholar
  15. Gaffen, D. J., Barnett, T. P., and Elliott, W. P.: 1991, ‘Space and Time Scales of Global Tropospheric Moisture’,J. Clim. 4, 989–1008.Google Scholar
  16. Gandin, L. S.: 1988, ‘Complex Quality Control of Meteorological Observations’,Mon. Wea. Rev. 116, 1138–1156.Google Scholar
  17. Garand, L., Grassotti, C., Hallé, J., and Klein, G. L.: 1992, ‘On Differences in Radiosonde Humidity-Resporting Practices and Their Implications for Numerical Weather Prediction and Remote Sensing’,Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 73, 1417–1423.Google Scholar
  18. Gibson, J. K., Källberg, P., Nomura, A., and Uppala, S.: 1994,The ECMWF Reanalysis (ERA) Project - Plans and Current Status, Preprints, Tenth International Conference on Interactive Information and Processing Systems for Meteorology, Oceanography, and Hydrology, American Meteorological Society, pp. 164-167.Google Scholar
  19. Gilman, D. L.: 1983, ‘Predicting the Weather for the Long Term’,Weatherwise 36, 290–297.Google Scholar
  20. Graham, N. E.: 1995, ‘Simulation of Recent Global Temperature Trends’,Science 267, 666–671.Google Scholar
  21. Graham, N. E., Barnett, T. P., Wilde, R., Schlese, U., and Bengtsson, L.: 1994, ‘On the Roles of Tropical and Midlatitude SSTs in Forcing Interannual and Interdecadal Variability in the Winter Northern Hemisphere Circulation’,J. Clim. 7, 1416–1441.Google Scholar
  22. Hurrell, J. W.: 1995, ‘Decadal Trends in the North Atlantic Oscillation: Regional Temperatures and Precipitation’,Science 269, 676–679.Google Scholar
  23. Hurrell, J. W. and van Loon, H.: 1993,Analysis of Low-Frequency Climate Variations over the Northern Hemisphere Using Historical Atmospheric Data, Fourth Symposium on Global Change Studies, 17–22 January 1993, Anaheim, CA, pp. 355–360.Google Scholar
  24. Hurrell, J. W. and van Loon, H.: 1994, ‘A Modulation of the Atmospheric Annual Cycle in the Southern Hemisphere’,Tellus 46A, 325–338.Google Scholar
  25. Jones, P. D.: 1987, ‘The Early Twentieth Century Arctic High - Factor or Fiction’,Clim. Dyn. 1, 63–75.Google Scholar
  26. Jones, P. D.: 1991, ‘Southern Hemisphere Sea Level Pressure Data: An Analysis and Reconstructions back to 1951 and 1911’,Intl. J. Climatol. 11, 585–607.Google Scholar
  27. Jones, P. D. and Wigley, T. M. L.: 1988, ‘Antarctic Gridded Sea Level Pressure Data: An Analysis and Reconstruction back to 1957’,J. Clim. 1, 1199–1220.Google Scholar
  28. Jones, P. D., Wigley, T. M. L., and Briffa, K. R.: 1983, ‘Reconstructing Surface Pressure Patterns Using Principal Components Regression on Temperature and Precipitation Data’, Proc. Intl. Mtg. Statistical Climatol., Inst. Nacional de Met. Geofisica, Lisbon, 4.2.1–4.2.8.Google Scholar
  29. Jones, P. D., Wigley, T. M. L., and Briffa, K. R.: 1986,Monthly Mean Pressure Reconstructions for Europe (to 1780) and North America (back to 1858), DoE Tech. Rep TR0, U.S. Dept. Energy, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  30. Kalnay, E. and Jenne, R.: 1991, ‘Summary of the NMC/NCAR Reanalysis Workshop of April 1991’,Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 72, 1897–1904.Google Scholar
  31. Karl, T. R., Knight, R. W., and Christy, J. R.: 1994, ‘Global and Hemispheric Temperature Trends: Uncertainties Related to Inadequate Spatial Sampling’,J. Clim. 7, 1144–1163.Google Scholar
  32. Kawamura, R.: 1994, ‘A Rotated EOF Analysis of Global Sea Surface Temperature Variability with Interannual and Interdecadal Scales’,J. Phys. Oceanogr. 24, 707–715.Google Scholar
  33. Kitoh, A.: 1991, ‘Interannual Variations in an Atmospheric GCM Forced by the 1970–1989 SST. Pt II: Low Frequency Variability of the Wintertime Northern Hemisphere Extratropics’,J. Met. Soc. Japan 69, 271–291.Google Scholar
  34. Klein, W. H.: 1983, ‘Objective Specification of Monthly Mean Surface Temperature from Mean 700 mb Heights in Winter’,Mon. Wea. Rev. 111, 674–691.Google Scholar
  35. Klein, W. H.: 1985, ‘Space and Time Variations in Specifying Monthly Mean Surface Temperature from the 700 mb Height Field’,Mon. Wea. Rev. 113, 277–290.Google Scholar
  36. Klein, W. H., Shabbar, A., and Yang, R.: 1989, ‘Specifying Monthly Mean Surface Temperatures in Canada and Alaska from the 500 mb Height Field’,J. Clim. 2, 631–638.Google Scholar
  37. Klein, W. H. and Walsh, J. E.: 1983, ‘A Comparison of Pointwise Screening and Empirical Orthogonal Functions in Specifying Monthly Surface Temperature from 700 mb Data’,Mon. Wea. Rev. 111, 669–673.Google Scholar
  38. Klein, W. H. and Yang, R.: 1986, ‘Specifications of Monthly Mean Surface Temperature Anomalies in Europe and Asia from Concurrent 700 mb Monthly Mean Height Anomalies over the Northern Hemisphere’,J. Climatol. 6, 463–474.Google Scholar
  39. Kumar, A., Leetmaa, A., and Ji, M.: 1994, ‘Simulations of Atmospheric Variability Induced by Sea Surface Temperatures and Implications for Global Warming’,Science 266, 632–634.Google Scholar
  40. Kushnir, Y.: 1994, ‘Interdecadal Variations in North Atlantic Sea Surface Temperature and Associated Atmospheric Conditions’,J. Clim. 7, 141–157.Google Scholar
  41. Lamb, H. H. and Johnson, A. I.: 1966, ‘Secular Variations of the Atmospheric Circulation since 1750’,Geophys. Mem. 110, London.Google Scholar
  42. Lau, N.-C. and Nath, M. J.: 1994, ‘A Modeling Study of the Relative Roles of Tropical and Extratropical SST Anomalies in the Variability of the Global Atmosphere-Ocean System’,J. Clim. 7, 1184–1207.Google Scholar
  43. Levitus, S.: 1989, ‘Interpentadal Variability of Temperature and Salinity at Intermediate Depths of the North Atlantic Ocean, 1970–1974 versus 1955–1959’,J. Geophys. Res. 94, 6091–6131.Google Scholar
  44. Madden, R. A.: 1976, ‘Estimates of the Natural Variability of Time-Averaged Sea-Level Pressure’,Mon. Wea. Rev. 104, 942–952.Google Scholar
  45. Manabe, S. and Stouffer, R. J.: 1988, ‘Two Stable Equilibria of a Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Model’,J. Clim. 1, 841–866.Google Scholar
  46. Martin, D. E. and Hawkins, H. F. Jr.: 1950, ‘Forecasting the Weather - the Relationship of Temperature and Precipitation over the United States to the Circulation aloft’,Weatherwise 3, 16–19, 40-43, 65-67.Google Scholar
  47. McFarlane, G. A. and Beamish, R. J.: 1992, ‘Climatic Influence Linking Copepod Production with Strong Year-Classes in Sablefish, Anoplopoma fimbria’,Can. J. Fish Aquat. Sci. 49, 743–753.Google Scholar
  48. Meehl, G. A., Branstator, G. W., and Washington, W. M.: 1993, ‘Tropical Pacific Interannual Variability and CO2 Climate Change’,J. Clim. 6, 42–63.Google Scholar
  49. Miller, A. J., Cayan, D. R., Barnett, T. P., Graham, N. E., and Oberhuber, J. M.: 1994, ‘Interdecadal Variability of the Pacific Ocean: Model Response to Observed Heat Flux and Wind Stress Anomalies’,Clim. Dyn. 9, 287–302.Google Scholar
  50. Namias, J.: 1948, ‘Evolution of Monthly Mean Circulation and Weather Patterns’,Trans. Amer. Geophys. U. 29, 777–788.Google Scholar
  51. O'Lenic, E.: 1995,A New Paradigm for Production and Dissemination of the NWS's Long Lead-Time Seasonal Climate Outlooks, Proc. 19th Climate Diag. Workshop, pp. 408-411.Google Scholar
  52. Palmer, T. N.: 1993, ‘A Nonlinear Dynamical Perspective on Climate Change’,Weather 48, 314–326.Google Scholar
  53. Paolino, D. A., Yang, Q., Doty, B., Kinter, J. L. III, Shukla, J., and Straus, D.: 1994,A Pilot Reanalysis Project at COLA, COLA Rep. No. 5, Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere studies, 48 pp.Google Scholar
  54. Parker, D. E. and Cox, D. I.: 1995, ‘Towards a Consistent Global Climatological Rawinsonde Data-Base’,Int. J. Climatol. 15, 473–496.Google Scholar
  55. Polovina, J. J., Mitchum, G. T., Graham, N. E., Craig, M. P., DeMartini, E. E., and Flint, E. N.: 1994, ‘Physical and Biological Consequences of a Climate Event in the Central North Pacific’,Fish. Oceanogr. 3, 15–21.Google Scholar
  56. Schlesinger, M. E. and Ramankutty, N.: 1994, ‘An Oscillation in the Global Climate System of Period 65–70 Years’,Nature 367, 723–726.Google Scholar
  57. Schubert, S. D., Rood, R. B., and Pfaendtner, J.: 1993, ‘An Assimilated Dataset for Earth Science Applications’,Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 74, 2331–2342.Google Scholar
  58. Schwartz, B. E. and Doswell, C. A. III: 1991, ‘North American Rawinsonde Observations: Problems, Concerns and a Call to Action’,Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 72, 1885–1896.Google Scholar
  59. Swanson, G. S. and Trenberth, K. E.: 1981, ‘Trends in the Southern Hemisphere Tropospheric Circulation’,Mon. Wea. Rev. 109, 1879–1889.Google Scholar
  60. Taljaard, J. J.: 1972, ‘Synoptic Meteorology in the Southern Hemisphere’, in Newton, C. W. (ed.),Meteorology of the Southern Hemisphere, Met. Monogr. 13, Amer. Meteor. Soc., 139-213.Google Scholar
  61. Taylor, K. C., Lamorey, G. W., Doyle, G. A., Alley, R. B., Grootes, P. M., Mayewski, P. A., White, J. W. C., and Barlow, L. K.: 1993, ‘The “Flickering Switch” of Late Pleistocene Climate Change’,Nature 361, 432–436.Google Scholar
  62. Trenberth, K. E.: 1979, ‘Interannual Variability of the 500 mb Zonal Mean Flow in the Southern Hemisphere’,Mon. Wea. Rev. 107, 1515–1524.Google Scholar
  63. Trenberth, K. E.: 1984, ‘Interannual Variability of the southern Hemisphere Circulation: Representativeness of the Year of the Global Weather Experiment’,Mon. Wea. Rev. 112, 108–123.Google Scholar
  64. Trenberth, K. E.: 1990, ‘Recent Observed Interdecadal Climate Changes in the Northern Hemisphere’,Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 71, 988–993.Google Scholar
  65. Trenberth, K. E.: 1992,Global Analyses from ECMWF and Atlas of 1000 to 10 mb Circulation Statistics, NCAR Tech. Note NCAR/TN-373+STR, 191 pp. (plus 24 fiche).Google Scholar
  66. Trenberth, K. E.: 1993, ‘Northern Hemisphere Climate Change: Physical Processes and Observed Changes’, in Mooney, H. A., Fuentes, E. R., and Kronberg, B. I. (eds.), chapter 3 ofEarth System Responses to Global Change: Contrasts between North and South America, Academic Press, 35-59.Google Scholar
  67. Trenberth, K. E., Berry, J. C., and Buja, L. E.: 1993, ‘Vertical Interpolation and Truncation of Model-Coordinate Data’, NCAR Technical Note NCAR/TN-396+STR, 54 pp.Google Scholar
  68. Trenberth, K. E., Christy, J. R., and Hurrell, J. H.: 1992, ‘Monitoring Global Monthly Mean Surface Temperatures’,J. Clim. 5, 1405–1423.Google Scholar
  69. Trenberth, K. E. and Hurrell, J. W.: 1994, ‘Decadal Atmosphere-Ocean Variations in the Pacific’,Clim. Dyn. 9, 303–319.Google Scholar
  70. Trenberth, K. E. and Hurrell, J. W.: 1995, ‘Decadal Coupled Atmosphere-Ocean Variations in the North Pacific Ocean’, in R. J. Beamish (ed.)Climate Change and Northern Fish Populations. Canad. Spec. Publ. Fisheries Aquat. Sci. 121, 15–24.Google Scholar
  71. Trenberth, K. E. and Olson, J. G.: 1988, ‘An Evaluation and Intercomparison of Global Analysis from NMC and ECMWF’,Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 69, 1047–1057.Google Scholar
  72. Trenberth, K. E. and Olson, J. G.: 1989, ‘Temperature Trends at the South Pole and McMurdo Sound’,J. Clim. 2, 1172–1182.Google Scholar
  73. Trenberth, K. E. and Paolino, D. A.: 1980, ‘The Northern Hemisphere Sea-Level Pressure Data Set: Trends, Errors, and Discontinuities’,Mon. Wea. Rev. 108, 855–872.Google Scholar
  74. van Loon, H.: 1972, ‘Pressure in the Southern Hemisphere’, in Newton, C. W. (ed.),Meteorology of the Southern Hemisphere, Met. Monogr. 13, Amer. Meteor. Soc., 59-86.Google Scholar
  75. van Loon, H., Kidson, J. W., and Mullan, A. B.: 1993, ‘Decadal Variation of the Annual Cycle in the Australian Dataset’,J. Clim. 6, 1227–1231.Google Scholar
  76. Wallace, J. M., Zhang, Y., and Lau, K.-H.: 1993, ‘Structure and Seasonality of Interannual and Interdecadal Variability of the Geopotential Height and Temperature Fields in the Northern Hemisphere Troposphere’,J. Clim. 6, 2063–2082.Google Scholar
  77. Williams, J. and van Loon, H.: 1976, ‘An Examination of the Northern Hemisphere Sea Level Pressure Dataset’,Mon. Wea. Rev. 104, 1354–1361.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin E. Trenberth
    • 1
  1. 1.National Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderUSA

Personalised recommendations