Tropospheric circulation shifts have strong potential to impact surface climate. But the magnitude of these shifts in a changing climate, and the attending regional hydrological changes, are difficult to project. Part of this difficulty arises from our lack of understanding of the physical mechanisms behind the circulation shifts themselves. In order to better delineate circulation shifts and their respective causes, we decompose the circulation response into (1) the “direct” response to radiative forcings themselves, and (2) the “indirect” response to changing sea surface temperatures. Using ensembles of 90-day climate model simulations with immediate switch-on forcings, including perturbed greenhouse gas concentrations, stratospheric ozone concentrations, and sea surface temperatures, we document the direct and indirect transient responses of the zonal mean general circulation, and investigate the roles of previously proposed mechanisms in shifting the midlatitude jet.
We find that both the direct and indirect wind responses often begin in the lower stratosphere. Changes in midlatitude eddies are ubiquitous and synchronous with the midlatitude zonal wind response. Shifts in the critical latitude of wave absorption on either flank of the jet are not indicted as primary factors for the poleward shifting jet, although we see some evidence for increasing equatorward wave reflection over the southern hemisphere in response to sea surface warming. Mechanisms for the northern hemisphere jet shift are less clear.