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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

Contributions to polar amplication in CMIP5 and CMIP6 models

Hahn, L.C., K.C. Armour, M.D. Zelinka, C.M. Bitz, and A. Donohoe, "Contributions to polar amplication in CMIP5 and CMIP6 models," Front. Earth Sci., 9, doi:10.3389/feart.2021.710036, 2021.

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20 Aug 2021

As a step towards understanding the fundamental drivers of polar climate change, we evaluate contributions to polar warming and its seasonal and hemispheric asymmetries in Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 6 (CMIP6) as compared with CMIP5. CMIP6 models broadly capture the observed pattern of surface- and winter-dominated Arctic warming that has outpaced both tropical and Antarctic warming in recent decades. For both CMIP5 and CMIP6, CO2 quadrupling experiments reveal that the lapse-rate and surface albedo feedbacks contribute most to stronger warming in the Arctic than the tropics or Antarctic. The relative strength of the polar surface albedo feedback in comparison to the lapse-rate feedback is sensitive to the choice of radiative kernel, and the albedo feedback contributes most to intermodel spread in polar warming at both poles. By separately calculating moist and dry atmospheric heat transport, we show that increased poleward moisture transport is another important driver of Arctic amplification and the largest contributor to projected Antarctic warming. Seasonal ocean heat storage and winter-amplified temperature feedbacks contribute most to the winter peak in warming in the Arctic and a weaker winter peak in the Antarctic. In comparison with CMIP5, stronger polar warming in CMIP6 results from a larger surface albedo feedback at both poles, combined with less-negative cloud feedbacks in the Arctic and increased poleward moisture transport in the Antarctic. However, normalizing by the global-mean surface warming yields a similar degree of Arctic amplification and only slightly increased Antarctic amplification in CMIP6 compared to CMIP5.

Stratospheric and tropospheric flux contributions to the polar cap energy budgets

Cardinale, C.J., B.E.J. Rose, A.L. Lang, and A. Donohoe, "Stratospheric and tropospheric flux contributions to the polar cap energy budgets," J. Clim., 34, 4261–4278, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-20-0722.1, 2021.

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1 Jun 2021

The flux of moist static energy into the polar regions plays a key role in the energy budget and climate of the polar regions. While usually studied from a vertically integrated perspective (Fwall), this analysis examines its vertical structure, using the NASA-MERRA-2 reanalysis to compute climatological and anomalous fluxes of sensible, latent, and potential energy across 70°N and 65°S for the period 1980–2016. The vertical structure of the climatological flux is bimodal, with peaks in the mid- to lower-troposphere and mid- to upper-stratosphere. The near zero flux at the tropopause defines the boundary between stratospheric (Fstrat) and tropospheric (Ftrop) contributions to Fwall. Especially at 70°N, Fstrat is found to be important to the climatology and variability of Fwall, contributing 20.9 Wm-2 to Fwall (19% of Fwall) during the winter and explaining 23% of the variance of Fwall. During winter, an anomalous poleward increase in Fstrat preceding a sudden stratospheric warming is followed by an increase in outgoing longwave radiation anomalies, with little influence on the surface energy budget of the Arctic. Conversely, a majority of the energy input by an anomalous poleward increase in Ftrop goes toward warming the Arctic surface. Ftrop is found to be a better metric than Fwall for evaluating the influence of atmospheric circulations on the Arctic surface climate.

Radiative and dynamic controls on atmospheric heat transport over different planetary rotation rates

Cox, T., K.C. Armour, G.H. Roe, A. Donohoe, and D.M.W. Frierson, "Radiative and dynamic controls on atmospheric heat transport over different planetary rotation rates," J. Clim., 34, 3543-3554, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-20-0533.1, 2021.

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8 Feb 2021

Atmospheric heat transport is an important piece of our climate system, yet we lack a complete theory for its magnitude or changes. Atmospheric dynamics and radiation play different roles in controlling the total atmospheric heat transport (AHT) and its partitioning into components associated with eddies and mean meridional circulations. This work focuses on two specific controls: a radiative one, atmospheric radiative temperature tendencies; and a dynamic one, planetary rotation rate. We use an idealized grey radiation model to employ a novel framework to lock the radiative temperature tendency and total AHT to climatological values, even while the rotation rate is varied. This setup allows for a systematic study of the effects of radiative tendency and rotation rate on AHT. We find that rotation rate controls the latitudinal extent of the Hadley cell and the heat transport efficiency of eddies. Both rotation rate and radiative tendency influence the strength of the Hadley cell and the strength of equator-pole energy differences that are important for AHT by eddies. These two controls do not always operate independently and can reinforce or dampen each other. In addition, we examine how individual AHT components, which vary with latitude, sum to a total AHT that varies smoothly with latitude. At slow rotation rates the mean meridional circulation is most important in ensuring total AHT varies smoothly with latitude, while eddies are most important at rotation rates similar to, and faster than, the Earth's.

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