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Aaron Donohoe

Senior Research Scientist





Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


B.A. Physics, Bowdoin College, 2003

Ph.D. Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, 2011


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Meridional atmospheric heat transport constrained by energetics and mediated by large-scale diffusion

Armour, K.C., N. Siler, A. Donohoe, and G.H. Roe, "Meridional atmospheric heat transport constrained by energetics and mediated by large-scale diffusion," J. Clim., 32, 3655-3680, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0563.1, 2019.

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1 Jun 2019

Meridional atmospheric heat transport (AHT) has been investigated through three broad perspectives: a dynamic perspective, linking AHT to the poleward flux of moist static energy (MSE) by atmospheric motions; an energetic perspective, linking AHT to energy input to the atmosphere by top-of-atmosphere radiation and surface heat fluxes; and a diffusive perspective, representing AHT in terms downgradient energy transport. It is shown here that the three perspectives provide complementary diagnostics of meridional AHT and its changes under greenhouse gas forcing. When combined, the energetic and diffusive perspectives offer prognostic insights: anomalous AHT is constrained to satisfy the net energetic demands of radiative forcing, radiative feedbacks, and ocean heat uptake; in turn, the meridional pattern of warming must adjust to produce those AHT changes, and does so approximately according to diffusion of anomalous MSE. The relationship between temperature and MSE exerts strong constraints on the warming pattern, favoring polar amplification. These conclusions are supported by use of a diffusive moist energy balance model (EBM) that accurately predicts zonal-mean warming and AHT changes within comprehensive general circulation models (GCMs). A dry diffusive EBM predicts similar AHT changes in order to satisfy the same energetic constraints, but does so through tropically amplified warming — at odds with the GCMs' polar-amplified warming pattern. The results suggest that polar-amplified warming is a near-inevitable consequence of a moist, diffusive atmosphere's response to greenhouse gas forcing. In this view, atmospheric circulations must act to satisfy net AHT as constrained by energetics.

Does surface temperature respond to or determine downwelling logwave radiation?

Vargas Zeppetello, L.R., A. Donohoe, and D.S. Battisti, "Does surface temperature respond to or determine downwelling logwave radiation?" Geophys. Res. Lett., EOR, doi:10.1029/2019GL082220, 2019.

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19 Feb 2019

Downward longwave radiation (DLR) is often assumed to be an independent forcing on the surface energy budget in analyses of Arctic warming and land‐atmosphere interaction. We use radiative kernels to show that the DLR response to forcing is largely determined by surface temperature perturbations. We develop a method by which vertically integrated versions of the radiative kernels are combined with surface temperature and specific humidity to estimate the surface DLR response to greenhouse forcing. Through a decomposition of the DLR response, we estimate that changes in surface temperature produce at least 63% of the clear‐sky DLR response in greenhouse forcing, while the changes associated with clouds account for only 11% of the full‐sky DLR response. Our results suggest that surface DLR is tightly coupled to surface temperature; therefore, it cannot be considered an independent component of the surface energy budget.

Radiative feedbacks from stochastic variability in surface temperature and radiative imbalance

Proistosescu, C., A. Donohoe, K.C. Armor, G.H. Roe, M.F. Sticker, and C.M. Bitz, "Radiative feedbacks from stochastic variability in surface temperature and radiative imbalance," Geophys. Res. Lett., 45, 5082-5094, doi:10.1029/2018GL077678, 2018.

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28 May 2018

Estimates of radiative feedbacks obtained by regressing fluctuations in top‐of‐atmosphere (TOA) energy imbalance and surface temperature depend critically on the sampling interval and on assumptions about the nature of the stochastic forcing driving internal variability. Here we develop an energy balance framework that allows us to model the different impacts of stochastic atmospheric and oceanic forcing on feedback estimates. The contribution of different forcing components is parsed based on their impacts on the covariance structure of near‐surface air temperature and TOA energy fluxes, and the framework is validated in a hierarchy of climate model simulations that span a range of oceanic configurations and reproduce the key features seen in observations. We find that at least three distinct forcing sources, feedbacks, and time scales are needed to explain the full covariance structure. Atmospheric and oceanic forcings drive modes of variability with distinct relationships between temperature and TOA radiation, leading to an effect akin to regression dilution. The net regression‐based feedback estimate is found to be a weighted average of the distinct feedbacks associated with each mode. Moreover, the estimated feedback depends on whether surface temperature and TOA energy fluxes are sampled at monthly or annual time scales. The results suggest that regression‐based feedback estimates reflect contributions from a combination of stochastic forcings and should not be interpreted as providing an estimate of the radiative feedback governing the climate response to greenhouse gas forcing.

More Publications

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center