Published In

Journal of Climate

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Atmospheric circulation, Stratospheric circulation, Vertical mixing (Earth sciences), Atmospheric thermodynamics, Global warming


Circulation patterns associated with extreme temperature days over North America, as simulated by a suite of climate models, are compared with those obtained from observations. The authors analyze 17 coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation models contributing to the fifth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. Circulation patterns are defined as composites of anomalies in sea level pressure and 500-hPa geopotential height concurrent with days in the tails of temperature distribution. Several metrics used to systematically describe circulation patterns associated with extreme temperature days are applied to both the observed and model-simulated data. Additionally, self-organizing maps are employed as a means of comparing observed and model-simulated circulation patterns across the North American domain. In general, the multimodel ensemble resembles the observed patterns well, especially in areas removed from complex geographic features (e.g., mountains and coastlines). Individual model results vary; however, the majority of models capture the major features observed. The multimodel ensemble captures several key features, including regional variations in the strength and orientation of atmospheric circulation patterns associated with extreme temperatures, both near the surface and aloft, as well as variations with latitude and season. The results from this work suggest that these models can be used to comprehensively examine the role that changes in atmospheric circulation will play in projected changes in temperature extremes because of future anthropogenic climate warming.


At the time of publication Paul C. Loikith was affiliated with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This work was authored as part of the Contributor's official duties as an Employee of the United States Government and is therefore a work of the United States Government. In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 105, no copyright protection is available for such works under U.S. Law.



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