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Impact of Explicit Atmosphere–Ocean Coupling on MJO-Like Coherent Structures in Idealized Aquaplanet Simulations

Wojciech W. GrabowskiNational Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

This paper discusses the impact of the atmosphere–ocean coupling on the large-scale organization of tropical convection simulated by an idealized global model applying the Cloud-Resolving Convection Parameterization (CRCP; superparameterization). Because the organization resembles the Madden–Julian Oscillation (MJO), the results contribute to the debate concerning the role of atmosphere–ocean coupling in tropical intraseasonal oscillations.

The modeling setup is an aquaplanet with globally uniform mean sea surface temperature (SST) of 30°C (tropics everywhere) in radiative–convective quasi equilibrium. The simulations apply an interactive radiation transfer model and a slab ocean model with a fixed oceanic mixed layer depth. Results from several 80- and 100-day-long simulations are discussed, where the only difference between the simulations is the prescribed oceanic mixed layer depth, which varied from 5 to 45 m. A simulation with a very deep oceanic mixed layer is also performed to represent constant-SST conditions. The simulations demonstrate that the interactive SST impedes the development of large-scale organization and has insignificant impact on the dynamics of mature MJO-like systems. The impediment is the result of a negative feedback between the large-scale organization of convection and SST, the convection–SST feedback. In this feedback, SST increases in regions of already suppressed convection and decreases in regions with enhanced convection, thus hindering the large-scale organization. Once developed, however, the MJO-like systems are equally strong in interactive and constant-SST simulations, and compare favorably with the observed MJO.

The above impacts of the atmosphere–ocean coupling contradict the majority of previous studies using traditional general circulation models, where, typically, an enhancement of the intraseasonal signal occurs compared to prescribed-SST simulations. An explanation of this discrepancy is suggested.

Corresponding author address: Wojciech W. Grabowski, NCAR/MMM, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307-3000. Email: grabow@ncar.ucar.edu

Abstract

This paper discusses the impact of the atmosphere–ocean coupling on the large-scale organization of tropical convection simulated by an idealized global model applying the Cloud-Resolving Convection Parameterization (CRCP; superparameterization). Because the organization resembles the Madden–Julian Oscillation (MJO), the results contribute to the debate concerning the role of atmosphere–ocean coupling in tropical intraseasonal oscillations.

The modeling setup is an aquaplanet with globally uniform mean sea surface temperature (SST) of 30°C (tropics everywhere) in radiative–convective quasi equilibrium. The simulations apply an interactive radiation transfer model and a slab ocean model with a fixed oceanic mixed layer depth. Results from several 80- and 100-day-long simulations are discussed, where the only difference between the simulations is the prescribed oceanic mixed layer depth, which varied from 5 to 45 m. A simulation with a very deep oceanic mixed layer is also performed to represent constant-SST conditions. The simulations demonstrate that the interactive SST impedes the development of large-scale organization and has insignificant impact on the dynamics of mature MJO-like systems. The impediment is the result of a negative feedback between the large-scale organization of convection and SST, the convection–SST feedback. In this feedback, SST increases in regions of already suppressed convection and decreases in regions with enhanced convection, thus hindering the large-scale organization. Once developed, however, the MJO-like systems are equally strong in interactive and constant-SST simulations, and compare favorably with the observed MJO.

The above impacts of the atmosphere–ocean coupling contradict the majority of previous studies using traditional general circulation models, where, typically, an enhancement of the intraseasonal signal occurs compared to prescribed-SST simulations. An explanation of this discrepancy is suggested.

Corresponding author address: Wojciech W. Grabowski, NCAR/MMM, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307-3000. Email: grabow@ncar.ucar.edu

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