Climate Dynamics Group
at the University of California, Santa Cruz

arctic-amplification

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Arctic amplification is widely attributed to the sea-ice albedo feedback and the corresponding increase in absorbed solar radiation, yet an important, and underappreciated, contribution arises from the impact of the vertical structure of atmospheric warming on the Earth’s outgoing radiation. Since the Arctic temperature profile may be influenced by a number of processes, this raises questions about the physical mechanisms ultimately responsible for the so-called lapse rate feedback. Our research activities in this cluster focus on creative modeling experiments designed to disentangle atmosphere, ocean, and cryosphere impacts on high-latitude climate change, and novel statistical techniques capable of identifying causal mechanisms in any time series, observational or simulated. Moderated by Nicole Feldl, Earth and Planetary Sciences.

A random sample of the projects from this collective includes:

tropical-climate-dynamics

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Our research cluster in Tropical Climate Dynamics focuses on the Hadley and Walker circulations, the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), and the subtropical deserts—and how they will change in a warmer world. We develop a diagnostic decomposition of the Hadley circulation weakening that accounts for meridional gradients in radiative feedbacks, radiative forcing, and ocean heat uptake; energy transport by atmospheric eddies; and gross moist stability. The picture that emerges is one of complex local and remote interactions, motivating additional, idealized experiments. To that end, we impose systematic variations in the surface albedo feedback in an aquaplanet model to explore how uncertainty in polar feedbacks translates into uncertainty in the tropical circulation response.

A random sample of the projects from this collective includes:

climate-feedbacks-sensitivity

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Uncertainty in the spatial pattern of climate change is dominated by divergent predictions among climate models. Model differences are closely linked to their representation of climate feedbacks, that is, the additional radiative fluxes that are caused by changes in clouds, water vapor, surface albedo, and other factors, in response to an external climate forcing. Progress in constraining this uncertainty is therefore predicated on understanding how patterns of individual climate feedbacks aggregate into a regional and global climate response. We begin by presenting a framework for quantifying the zonal mean, equilibrium temperature response to radiative feedbacks and radiative forcing. This work illustrates the pivotal role of atmospheric heat transport in balancing the energetic requirements of the feedbacks, and kicks off a theme throughout this cluster—how do radiative feedbacks affect atmospheric dynamics? Further investigations employ a moist energy balance model (the MEBM) that combines regional feedbacks and the diffusion of both latent and sensible heat to reveal how uncertainty in feedback patterns drives uncertainty in the patterns of temperature response

A random sample of the projects from this collective includes:

serious-games

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Serious Games for Climate Change is a research cluster at the nexus of game design, climate science, and learning science. Our aims are to develop new ways to create better video games for learning about climate change, as well as games that increase public investment and policy engagement in California. Moderated by Elizabeth Swensen, Art and Design: Games and Playable Media, and Nicole Feldl, Earth and Planetary Sciences.

A random sample of the projects from this collective includes: