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Late Twenty-First-Century Changes in the Midlatitude Atmospheric Circulation in the CESM Large Ensemble


Projected changes in the midlatitude atmospheric circulation at the end of the twenty-first century are investigated using coupled ocean-atmosphere simulations from the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble (CESM-LENS). Different metrics are used to describe the response of the midlatitude atmospheric dynamics in 40 ensemble members covering the 1920-2100 period. Contrasted responses are identified depending on the season and longitudinal sector that are considered. In winter, a slowdown of the zonal flow and an increase in waviness is found over North America, while the European sector exhibits a reinforced westerly flow and decreased waviness. Extreme temperature events in midlatitudes are more sensitive to thermodynamical than dynamical changes, and a general decrease in the intensity of wintertime cold spells is found. Analyses of individual ensemble members reveal a large spread in circulation changes due to internal variability. Causes for this spread are found to be tied to the Arctic amplification in the Pacific-North American sector and to the polar stratosphere in the North Atlantic. A competition mechanism is also discussed between the midlatitude response to polar versus tropical changes. While the upper-tropospheric tropical warming pushes the jet stream poleward, in winter, Arctic amplification and the weaker polar vortex exert an opposite effect. This competition results in a narrowing of the jet path in the midlatitudes, leading to decreased/unchanged waviness/blockings. This interpretation somewhat reconciles conflicting results between the hypothesized effect of Arctic amplification and projected changes in midlatitude flow characteristics. This study also illustrates that further understanding of regional processes is critical for anticipating changes in the midlatitude dynamics.

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