Intermodel spread in Walker circulation responses linked to spread in moist stability and radiation responses
The response of the Pacific Walker circulation (WC) to long-term warming remains uncertain. Here, we diagnose contributions to the WC response in comprehensive and idealized general circulation model (GCM) simulations. We find that the spread in WC response is substantial across both the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) and the Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) models, implicating differences in atmospheric models in the spread in projected WC strength. Using a moist static energy (MSE) budget, we evaluate the contributions to changes in the WC strength related to changes in gross moist stability (GMS), horizontal MSE advection, radiation, and surface fluxes. We find that the multimodel mean WC weakening is mostly related to changes in GMS and radiation. Furthermore, the spread in WC response is related to the spread in GMS and radiation responses. The GMS response is potentially sensitive to parameterized convective entrainment which can affect lapse rates and the depth of convection. We thus investigate the role of entrainment in setting the GMS response by varying the entrainment rate in an idealized GCM. The idealized GCM is run with a simplified Betts-Miller convection scheme, modified to represent entrainment. The weakening of the WC with warming in the idealized GCM is dampened when higher entrainment rates are used. However, the spread in GMS responses due to differing entrainment rates is much smaller than the spread in GMS responses across CMIP6 models. Therefore, further work is needed to understand the large spread in GMS responses across CMIP6 and AMIP models.