Interdecadal Changes in Atmospheric Low-Frequency Variability with and without Boundary Forcing

A. W. Robertson Department of Atmospheric Sciences and Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California

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M. Ghil Department of Atmospheric Sciences and Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California

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M. Latif Max-Planck-Institut für Meteorologie, Hamburg, Germany

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Abstract

The response of the Max Planck Institute’s ECHAM3 atmospheric general circulation model to a prescribed decade-long positive anomaly in sea surface temperatures (SSTs) over the North Atlantic is investigated. Two 10-yr realizations of the anomaly experiment are compared against a 100-yr control run of the model with seasonally varying climatological SST using a model spatial resolution of T42. In addition to the time-mean response, particular attention is paid to changes in intraseasonal variability, expressed in terms of North Atlantic–European weather regimes. The model regimes are quite realistic.

Substantial differences are found in the 700-mb geopotential height field response between the two decadal realizations. The time-mean response in the first sample decade is characterized by the positive (zonal) phase of the North Atlantic oscillation (NAO); this response can be identified with changes in the frequency of occurrence of certain weather regimes by about one standard deviation. (Preliminary results of this numerical experiment were reported at the Atlantic Climate Variability Workshop held at the Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, New York, 24–26 September 1997.) By contrast, the second SST anomaly decade shows a localized trough centered over the British Isles; it projects less strongly onto the model’s intrinsic weather regimes. The control run itself exhibits pronounced decade-to-decade variations in the weather regimes’ frequency of occurrence as well as in its NAO index. The two 10-yr anomaly experiments are insufficient, in length and number, to identify a robust SST response above this level of intrinsic variability.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Andrew W. Robertson, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, UCLA, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1565.

Email: andy@atmos.ucla.edu

Abstract

The response of the Max Planck Institute’s ECHAM3 atmospheric general circulation model to a prescribed decade-long positive anomaly in sea surface temperatures (SSTs) over the North Atlantic is investigated. Two 10-yr realizations of the anomaly experiment are compared against a 100-yr control run of the model with seasonally varying climatological SST using a model spatial resolution of T42. In addition to the time-mean response, particular attention is paid to changes in intraseasonal variability, expressed in terms of North Atlantic–European weather regimes. The model regimes are quite realistic.

Substantial differences are found in the 700-mb geopotential height field response between the two decadal realizations. The time-mean response in the first sample decade is characterized by the positive (zonal) phase of the North Atlantic oscillation (NAO); this response can be identified with changes in the frequency of occurrence of certain weather regimes by about one standard deviation. (Preliminary results of this numerical experiment were reported at the Atlantic Climate Variability Workshop held at the Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, New York, 24–26 September 1997.) By contrast, the second SST anomaly decade shows a localized trough centered over the British Isles; it projects less strongly onto the model’s intrinsic weather regimes. The control run itself exhibits pronounced decade-to-decade variations in the weather regimes’ frequency of occurrence as well as in its NAO index. The two 10-yr anomaly experiments are insufficient, in length and number, to identify a robust SST response above this level of intrinsic variability.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Andrew W. Robertson, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, UCLA, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1565.

Email: andy@atmos.ucla.edu

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