Several oceanic and atmospheric mechanisms have been put forward to describe the response of the tropical Pacific to global warming. Still uncertainties persist in their interaction and relative importance, with projections varying substantially across climate models. Adding to this complexity is the time-scale dependance of specific processes, wherein the wind-driven subtropical overturning circulation and adjustment of the equatorial thermocline plays a key role. We will review these mechanisms within both complex and idealized models and their role in the transient and equilibrium response of the tropical Pacific to warming. We will contrast fully-coupled and slab-ocean perturbed CO2 simulations, as well as a unique set of climate simulations across which we systematically scale the strength of the low cloud cover (LCC) feedback under abrupt 2xCO2 forcing within a single model, thereby isolating the impact of this feedback. Finally, in search of an observational constrain on the equilibrium response to warming, we will turn to the last time in Earth’s history that atmosphere CO2 estimates exceeded 400pm, the Pliocene.
Speaker: Natalie Burls, George Mason University
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