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Title: The impact of tropical sea surface temperature perturbations on atmospheric circulation over north Canada and Greenland
Author: McCrystall, Michelle Roisin
ISNI:       0000 0004 7230 6105
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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Identifying the drivers of Arctic climate variability is essential for understanding the recent rapid changes in local climate and determining the mechanisms that cause them. Remote tropical sea surface temperatures (SST) have been identified in previous studies as having contributed to the recent positive trends in surface temperature and geopotential height at 200 hPa over north Canada and Greenland (1979-2012) through poleward propagating Rossby waves. However, the source and direction of wave propagation on to north Canada and Greenland (NCG) differs across climate datasets indicating that there are still uncertainties surrounding the mechanisms for how the tropics influence the NCG climate. This thesis aims to further investigate the robustness of the trends over NCG and understand how circulation in this region responds to imposed tropical SST perturbations. The eddy 200 hPa geopotential height (Z200) trends over NCG are assessed in a number of different datasets and compared to the response of eddy Z200 over NCG to imposed tropical SST perturbations in a number of sensitivity studies using the HadGEM3 atmosphere-only model. These model experiments are forced with observed differences in SSTs from the beginning and end of the satellite record (1979-1988 and 2003-2012), with spatial perturbations for [i] the entire tropics, [ii] global SSTs, [iii] the tropical Pacific only, [iv] the tropical Atlantic SST only, [v] the tropical Indian Ocean only. The positive spatial trends of eddy Z200 over NCG from ERA-Interim reanalysis is largely captured in ensemble means of two available climate datasets, UPSCALE and AMIP, indicating that this is a robust climate pattern, however, these trends appear to be stronger in the latter part of the record specifically over the UPSCALE period (1985 to 2011). The model sensitivity studies show that a negative eddy Z200 anomaly over NCG was found in response to all imposed tropical SST perturbations (2003-2012) relative to a background state (1979-1988). This was due a stationary trough over the region that was able to intensify in response to a lack of a strong anomalous wave forcing from changes in mid-tropospheric temperature and zonal winds. The forcing from the tropical Atlantic, relative to the other tropical ocean basins, resulted in the largest eddy Z200 response over NCG, indicating its dominance in forcing the large scale tropical signal. The influence of extratropical SST perturbations relative to tropical SST perturbations were also investigated and it was demonstrated that this negative anomaly is largely driven by the change in tropical sea surface temperatures.
Supervisor: Pyle, John ; Hosking, Scott ; Maycock, Amanda Sponsor: Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Arctic climate ; Arctic amplifcation ; Teleconnections ; Tropic to Arctic teleconnections ; Arctic circulation ; Arctic warming ; Rossby Waves ; Rossby Wave sources ; Tropical SST perturbations