Early-winter North Atlantic low-level jet latitude biases in climate models: Implications for simulated regional atmosphere-ocean linkages

Climate model biases in the North Atlantic (NA) low-level tropospheric westerly jet are a major impediment to reliably representing variability of the NA climate system and its wider influence, in particular over western Europe. A major aspect of the biases is the occurrence of a prominent early-winter equatorward jet bias in Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) models that has implications for NA atmosphere-ocean coupling. Here we assess whether this bias is reduced in the new CMIP6 models and assess implications for model representation of NA atmosphere-ocean linkages, in particular over the sub-polar gyre (SPG) region. Historical simulations from the CMIP5 and CMIP6 model datasets were compared against reanalysis data over the period 1862-2005. The results show that the early-winter equatorward bias remains present in CMIP6 models, although with an approximately one-fifth reduction compared to CMIP5. The equatorward bias is mainly associated with a weaker-than-observed frequency of poleward excursions of the jet to its northern position. A potential explanation is provided through the identification of a strong link between NA jet latitude bias and systematically too-weak model-simulated low-level baroclinicity over eastern North America in early-winter. CMIP models with larger equatorward jet biases exhibit weaker correlation between temporal variability in speed of the jet and sea surface conditions (sea surface temperatures and turbulent heat fluxes) over the SPG. The results imply that the early-winter equatorward bias in jet latitude in CMIP models could partially explain other known biases, such as the weaker-than-observed seasonal-decadal predictability of the NA climate system.


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Authors: Bracegirdle, Thomas ORCIDORCID record for Thomas Bracegirdle, Lu, Hua ORCIDORCID record for Hua Lu, Robson, Jon

On this site: Hua Lu, Thomas Bracegirdle
30 December, 2021
Environmental Research Letters / 17
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