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Dynamics of Earth's Hadley Circulation


Levine, Xavier Josselin (2013) Dynamics of Earth's Hadley Circulation. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z25V-TA20.


This thesis advances our understanding of the mechanisms controlling the Hadley circulation, and its interaction with eddies on planetary scales in particular. On Earth, and more generally in a rapidly rotating and differentially heated planet, planetary scale eddies in the extratropics interact with the mean flow in the tropics, contributing to the driving of the Hadley circulation. A hierarchy of numerical models is used to simulate and understand the relative importance of eddies in the driving of the Hadley circulation. In a global warming experiment, the Hadley circulation is found to strengthen in colder climates and weaken in warmer climates, with a maximum strength in a climate close to present-day Earth’s. This nonmonotonicity is shown to be consistent with variations in the eddy activity in the midlatitudes. The cells are also found to widen over the entire range of this climate change. A criterion quantifying the importance of baroclinic waves in setting the depth of the troposphere, which is modified to account for the effect of convective adjustment on planetary Rossby waves activity, is used to explain the shifts in the terminus of the Hadley circulation for a wide range of climate scenarios. Additionally, by comparing simulations with and without ocean heat transport, it is shown that accounting for low-latitude ocean heat transport and its coupling to wind stress is essential to obtain Hadley circulations in a dynamical regime resembling Earth’s. These changes in the strength and extent are found to be captured in a simple one-dimensional model that relies on standard assumptions about the thermodynamic properties of the atmosphere in the low-latitude regions and with a simple representation of eddy fluxes. Further work with this model, which may be amenable to analytical progress, could provide a quantitative understanding for the sensitivity of the Hadley circulation in comprehensive GCM simulations of 21st century global warming scenarios.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:tropical circulations, Hadley circulation, baroclinic waves, global climate change, zonally-symmetric dynamics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Environmental Science and Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Schneider, Tapio
Thesis Committee:
  • Bordoni, Simona (chair)
  • Ingersoll, Andrew P.
  • Schneider, Tapio
  • Wennberg, Paul O.
Defense Date:15 November 2012
Non-Caltech Author Email:xavier.levine (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:12062012-130125923
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7309
Deposited By: Xavier Levine
Deposited On:11 Jan 2013 17:32
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 23:57

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