Climate Warming–Related Strengthening of the Tropical Hydrological Cycle
Abstract The authors estimate climate warming?related twenty-first-century changes of moisture transports from the descending into the ascending regions in the tropics. Unlike previous studies that employ time and space averaging, here homogeneous high horizontal and vertical resolution data from an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) climate model are used. This allows for estimating changes in much greater detail (e.g., the estimation of the distribution of ascending and descending regions, changes in the vertical profile, and separating changes of the inward and outward transports). Low-level inward and midlevel outward moisture transports of the convective regions in the tropics are found to increase in a simulated anthropogenically warmed climate as compared to a simulated twentieth-century atmosphere, indicating an intensification of the hydrological cycle. Since an increase of absolute inward transport exceeds the absolute increase of outward transport, the resulting budget is positive, meaning that more water is projected to converge in the moist tropics. The intensification is found mainly to be due to the higher amount of water in the atmosphere, while the contribution of weakening wind counteracts this response marginally. In addition the changing statistical properties of the vertical profile of the moisture transport are investigated and the importance of the substantial outflow of moisture from the moist tropics at midlevels is demonstrated.