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Journal Article

The Brewer-Dobson circulation in a changing climate : import of the model configuration


Bunzel,  Felix
Middle and Upper Atmosphere, The Atmosphere in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;
IMPRS on Earth System Modelling, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

Schmidt,  Hauke
Middle and Upper Atmosphere, The Atmosphere in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

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Bunzel, F., & Schmidt, H. (2013). The Brewer-Dobson circulation in a changing climate: import of the model configuration. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 70, 1437-1455. doi:10.1175/JAS-D-12-0215.1.

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Most climate models simulate a strengthening of the Brewer-Dobson circulation (BDC) under a changing climate. However, the magnitude of the trend as well as the underlying mechanisms varies significantly among the models. In this work the impact of both vertical resolution and vertical extent of a model on the simulated BDC change is investigated by analyzing sensitivity simulations performed with the general circulation model ECHAM6 in three different model configurations for three different climate states. Tropical upwelling velocities and age of stratospheric air are used as measures for the strength of the BDC. Both consistently show a BDC strengthening from the preindustrial to the future climate state for all configurations of the model. However, the amplitude and origin of this change vary between the different setups. Analyses of the tropical upward mass flux indicate that in the model with a lid at 10 hPa the BDC strengthening at 70 hPa is primarily produced by resolved wave drag, while in the model with a higher lid (0.01 hPa) the parameterized wave drag yields the main contribution to the BDC increase. This implies that consistent changes in the BDC originate from different causes when the stratosphere is not sufficiently resolved in a model. Furthermore, the effect of enhancing the horizontal diffusion in the upper model layers to avoid resolved wave reflection at the model lid is quantified, and a possible link to the different behavior of the low-top model with regard to the origin of the BDC change is identified.