Feedbacks and Eddy Diffusivity in an Energy Balance Model of Tropical Rainfall Shifts


Radiative feedbacks are known to strongly modify horizontal shifts of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) produced by remote atmospheric energy sources. This study uses a one-dimensional moist energy balance model to understand how radiative feedbacks and the structure of an imposed eddy diffusivity can influence such ITCZ shifts. The Planck feedback is shown to damp ITCZ shifts more strongly for extratropical forcings than for tropical ones, because lower moisture content in cold regions makes the temperature response larger there. The water vapor feedback on ITCZ shifts is shown to be dominated by changes in the cross-equatorial asymmetry of the relative humidity of subtropical dry zones, with additional contributions by the changes in mixing ratio that occur at fixed relative humidity and by the meridional shift of the humid ITCZ. Finally, the ITCZ response is found to be highly sensitive to the meridional structure of the diffusivity; the ITCZ shift increases with the tropical diffusivity, even when the global mean diffusivity is fixed.

npj Climate and Atmospheric Science