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Dynamics of the Intertropical Convergence Zone


Bischoff, Tobias (2017) Dynamics of the Intertropical Convergence Zone. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z97M05XR.


Previous studies have shown that the latitude of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) is negatively correlated with cross-equatorial atmospheric energy transport and that the ITCZ shifts southward as the northern hemisphere cools and the northward cross-equatorial energy transport strengthens. However, it has remained unclear what controls the sensitivity of the ITCZ position to cross-equatorial energy transport, and what other factors may lead to shifts of the ITCZ position. In this thesis, it is shown how an energetic perspective using the vertically-integrated moist static energy balance of the atmosphere can be used to address this question. Climate states with a double-ITCZ around the equator also occur, for example, seasonally over the eastern Pacific, and frequently in climate models. Here it is shown how the ITCZ position is connected to the energy balance near the equator under a wide range of circumstances, including states with single and double ITCZs and using a Taylor expansion of the meridional energy transport around the equator quantitative estimates for the ITCZ location are derived. Simulations with an idealized aquaplanet general circulation model (GCM) confirm the quantitative adequacy of these relations. Using these ideas, an idealized precipitation model for the tropics is presented that is able to capture variations of paleoclimatological precipitation records on orbital time scales. The results provide a framework for assessing and understanding causes of common climate model biases and for interpreting tropical precipitation changes, such as those evident in records of climates of the past.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:ITCZ, Climate Dynamics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Environmental Science and Engineering
Minor Option:Applied And Computational Mathematics
Computer Science
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Schneider, Tapio
Thesis Committee:
  • Thompson, Frederick B. (chair)
  • Schneider, Tapio
  • Bordoni, Simona
  • Adkins, Jess F.
Defense Date:9 June 2016
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Science FoundationAGS-1019211
National Science FoundationAGS-1049201
National Science FoundationAGS-1003614
National Science FoundationOCE-1235488
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:11122016-111133209
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for ch. 2 adapted for ch. 3 adapted for ch. 5
Bischoff, Tobias0000-0003-3930-2762
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:9981
Deposited By: Toby Bischoff
Deposited On:09 Dec 2016 21:30
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:14

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