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Thermodynamic and dynamic controls on changes in the zonally anomalous hydrological cycle

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Author(s)

Robert Wills, Michael P. Byrne, Tapio Schneider

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Abstract

The wet gets wetter, dry gets drier paradigm explains the expected moistening of the extratropics and drying of the subtropics as the atmospheric moisture content increases with global warming. Here we show, using precipitation minus evaporation (PE) data from climate models, that it cannot be extended to apply regionally to deviations from the zonal mean. Wet and dry zones shift substantially in response to shifts in the stationary‐eddy circulations that cause them. Additionally, atmospheric circulation changes lead to a smaller increase in the zonal variance of PE than would be expected from atmospheric moistening alone. The PE variance change can be split into dynamic and thermodynamic components through an analysis of the atmospheric moisture budget. This reveals that a weakening of stationary‐eddy circulations and changes in the zonal variation of transient‐eddy moisture fluxes moderate the strengthening of the zonally anomalous hydrological cycle with global warming.
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Original languageEnglish
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume43
Issue number9
Early online date14 May 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2016

    Research areas

  • Precipitation, Hydrological cycle, Moisture transport, Climate change

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