Aaron Donohoe

Aaron Donohoe studies global scale climate dynamics with a focus on how energy moves through the climate system via radiative and dynamical processes. Large scale energy fluxes control the spatial-temporal distribution of atmospheric and surface temperature, the hydrological cycle and the strength and location of storm tracks (i.e weather systems). His work attempts to understand the controls of climate and climate variability from the perspective of global scale energy fluxes in the atmosphere and ocean.


Selected Projects:

Southern Ocean warming –  The spatial pattern of temperature changes over the last several decades shows a pronounced contrast between the high latitudes of the two hemispheres; the Arctic warmed more than any other region on the planet, whereas the Southern Ocean adjacent to Antarctica has actually been cooling on average (Figure 1). Given the widespread evidence of increased greenhouse forcing and associated global energy imbalance resulting in energy accumulation in the climate system at the global scale, a key question is, why hasn’t the Southern Ocean warmed? Previous explanations of this climate paradox include: 1. deep mixed layers in the high-latitude Southern Ocean allowing heat taken up at the surface to be stored at depth 2. increased surface westerly winds associated with ozone depletion resulting in stronger equatorward oceanic advection of cold water, or 3. surface freshening due to enhanced rainfall or glacial runoff resulting in less upward mixing of heat from warm sub-surface water.

Figure 1. Spatial pattern of sea surface temperature trends since 1950 calculated from NOAA’s Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature version 3b (Smith et al. 2008).

A new study argues that the climatological ocean overturning circulation is responsible for delayed Southern Ocean warming. Circumpolar surface westerlies continually advect surface water equatorward and pull deep, old water — which has not been exposed to the surface for centuries—up to the surface around Antarctica. As a result, as the surface waters of the high-latitude Southern Ocean are heated, they are continually advected equatorward and replaced by the deep, old water that has not been impacted by decades of anthropogenic climate forcing. Indeed, large quantities of energy are entering the high-latitude Southern Ocean, but this energy ends up accumulating in the water column in the lower-latitudes of the Southern Ocean, on the equatorward flank of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (Figure 2). As a result, the high-latitude Southern Ocean will take centuries to warm despite the surface energy input, even in the absence of changing winds or freshwater sources.

Figure 2. (A) 30 year trends of the ocean heat uptake (blue) and full-depth ocean energy accumulation (red) in historical CMIP5 simulations (1982-2012) — units of ZJ per degree latitude band per decade. The shading indicates one standard deviation spread across the ensemble of models. (B) Depth-latitude cross section of temperature trends over the same period co-plotted with the climatological meridional overturning streamfunction (4 Sv contour interval) with sense of motion indicated by the black arrows.


Selected Publications

  • Donohoe, A., K.C. Armour, G.H. Roe and D.S. Battisti (2020). The partitioning of atmospheric energy transport and changes under climate forcing in coupled climate models. Journal of Climate.  DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0797.1

  • Donohoe, A., E.J. Dawson, L. McMurdie, D.S. Battisti and A. Rhines (2020). Seasonal asymmetries in the lag between insolation and surface temperature. Journal of Climate.  DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0329.1

  • Donohoe, A., E. Blanchard-Wrigglesworth., A. Schweiger, P. Rasch (2020). The effect of atmospheric transmissivity on model and observational estimates of the sea ice albedo feedback. Journal of Climate.  DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0674.1.

  • Donohoe, A.Atwood, A. R., & Byrne, M. P. ( 2019). Controls on the width of tropical precipitation and its contraction under global warmingGeophysical Research Letters469958– 9967. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GL082969

  • Armour, K.C., N. Siler, A. Donohoe, and G.H. Roe, 2019: Meridional Atmospheric Heat Transport Constrained by Energetics and Mediated by Large-Scale Diffusion. J. Climate, 32, 3655–3680, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0563.1

  • Vargas Zeppetello, L. R.Donohoe, A., & Battisti, D. S. (2019). Does surface temperature respond to or determine downwelling longwave radiation? Geophysical Research Letters462781– 2789https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GL082220

  • Armour K.C., Marshall, J., Scott, J., Donohoe, A., and Newsom, E.R.  (2016) Southern Ocean warming delayed by circumpolar upwelling and equatorward transport, Nature Geoscience, 9, 549–554, doi: 10.1038/ngeo2731

  • Bandoro, J., S. Solomon, A. Donohoe, D. Thompson, and B. Santer, 2014: Influences of the Antarctic Ozone Hole on Southern Hemispheric Summer Climate Change. J. Climate, 27, 6245–6264.

  • Donohoe, A.D., K. Armour, A.G, Pendergrass and D.S. Battisti, 2014, Shortwave and longwave contributions to global warming under increasing CO2, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. November 10, 2014, doi:10.1073/pnas.141219

  • Donohoe, A.D., J. Marshall, D. Ferreira, K. Armour, 2014, The inter-annual variability of tropical precipitation and inter-hemispheric energy transport,  Journal of Climate, 27, 3377–3392. doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00499.1