Cameron Rencurrel completes his MS thesis

Cameron Rencurrel has successfully completed and defended his thesis for the MS (Master of Science) degree, and is the second graduate from our group! Cameron is staying to continue on to his PhD.

Cameron’s thesis is entitled Understanding Climatic Adjustments to Variations in Tropical Ocean Heat Transport. It is a follow-up study to Rose and Ferreira (2013, J. Climate). The tropical oceans take up vast amounts of energy through air-sea heat fluxes, especially in the equatorial regions dominated by wind-driven upwelling of cold water. Over long time periods, this tropical heat uptake is roughly balanced by heat release from the ocean to the atmosphere in other regions closer to the poles.

Cameron has been studying how and why this energy transport by ocean currents affects the global climate. We subject an aquaplanet GCM to a large array of different spatial patterns and magnitudes of ocean heat transport, and look at how variations in the transport affect aspects of the time-mean climate. We find that an increase in poleward heat transport by the tropical ocean results in a warming of the extra-tropics, relatively little change in the tropical temperatures, moistening of the subtropical dry zones, and partial but incomplete compensation of the planetary-scale energy transport by the atmosphere. This compensation is partially carried out by changes in the tropical Hadley circulation, and is manifested in simultaneous changes in both the mass flux of the cell and its efficiency (the so-called Gross Moist Stability). These dynamical changes are strongly coupled to thermodynamic and radiative processes that govern the global warming.

These experiments provide new insight into mechanisms of past climate changes on Earth, which have been driven in part by tectonic changes in ocean basins and consequent changes in ocean circulation and heat transport.

Publications based on these results are in preparation.