The sensitivity of oceanic precipitation to sea surface temperature

Burdanowitz, Jörg; Buehler, Stefan A.; Bakan, Stephan; Klepp, Christian

Our study forms the oceanic counterpart to numerous observational studies over land concerning the sensitivity of extreme precipitation to a change in air temperature. We explore the sensitivity of oceanic precipitation to changing sea surface temperature (SST) by exploiting two novel datasets at high resolution. First, we use the Ocean Rainfall And Ice-phase precipitation measurement Network (OceanRAIN) as an observational along-track shipboard dataset at 1 min resolution. Second, we exploit the most recent European Reanalysis version 5 (ERA5) at hourly resolution on a 31 km grid. Matched with each other, ERA5 vertical velocity allows the constraint of the OceanRAIN precipitation. Despite the inhomogeneous sampling along ship tracks, OceanRAIN agrees with ERA5 on the average latitudinal distribution of precipitation with fairly good seasonal sampling. However, the 99th percentile of OceanRAIN precipitation follows a super Clausius–Clapeyron scaling with a SST that exceeds 8.5 % K−1 while ERA5 precipitation scales with 4.5 % K−1. The sensitivity decreases towards lower precipitation percentiles, while OceanRAIN keeps an almost constant offset to ERA5 due to higher spatial resolution and temporal sampling. Unlike over land, we find no evidence for a decreasing precipitation event duration with increasing SST. ERA5 precipitation reaches a local minimum at about 26 C that vanishes when constraining vertical velocity to strongly rising motion and excluding areas of weak correlation between precipitation and vertical velocity. This indicates that instead of moisture limitations as over land, circulation dynamics rather limit precipitation formation over the ocean. For the strongest rising motion, precipitation scaling converges to a constant value at all precipitation percentiles. Overall, high resolutions in observations and climate models are key to understanding and predicting the sensitivity of oceanic precipitation extremes to a change in SST.



Burdanowitz, Jörg / Buehler, Stefan A. / Bakan, Stephan / et al: The sensitivity of oceanic precipitation to sea surface temperature. 2019. Copernicus Publications.


Rechteinhaber: Jörg Burdanowitz et al.

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