Declining aerosols in CMIP5 projections

Posted by on Sep 1, 2015 in Abstracts, Abstracts 2014

Declining aerosols in CMIP5 projections: effects on atmospheric temperature structure and midlatitude jets


We assess the effects of declining anthropogenic aerosols in Representative Concentration Pathway 4.5 (RCP4.5) in four models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5), with a focus on annual, zonal-mean atmospheric temperature structure and zonal winds. For each model, we diagnose the effect of declining aerosols from the difference between a projection forced by RCP4.5 for 2006-2100 and another that has identical forcing, except that anthropogenic aerosols are fixed at early 21st century levels. The response to declining aerosols is interpreted in terms of the meridional structure of aerosol radiative forcing, which peaks near 40°N and vanishes at the South Pole.

Increasing greenhouse gases cause amplified warming in the tropical upper troposphere and strengthening midlatitude jets in both hemispheres. However, for declining aerosols the vertically averaged tropospheric temperature response peaks near 40°N, rather than in the tropics. This implies that for declining aerosols the tropospheric meridional temperature gradient generally increases in the Southern Hemisphere (SH), but in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) it decreases in the tropics and subtropics. Consistent with thermal wind balance, the NH jet then strengthens on its poleward side and weakens on its equatorward side, whereas the SH jet strengthens more than the NH jet. The asymmetric response of the jets is thus consistent with the meridional structure of aerosol radiative forcing and the associated tropospheric warming: in the NH the latitude of maximum warming is roughly collocated with the jet, whereas in the SH warming is strongest in the tropics and weakest at high latitudes.