Circulation Regimes and SST Forcing: Results from Large GCM Ensembles

David M. Straus George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and Center for Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Studies, Calverton, Maryland

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Franco Molteni International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy

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Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to study the influence of tropical sea surface temperature (SST) on the midlatitude circulation regime behavior in the Pacific–North American region. Toward this end, a cluster analysis has been applied to 55-member ensembles of winter seasonal simulations of the Center for Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Studies general circulation model for 18 winters. The ensemble members for each winter utilize the same prescribed, observed weekly varying SST for that winter. The cluster analysis includes all fluctuations with time scales longer than 10 days except for the ensemble mean seasonal cycle.

Using a partitioning algorithm separately applied to each winter's ensemble, clusters are found in the 200-hPa height field that are signicant (vis-à-vis a suitable Gaussian background), reproducible (in half-length datasets), and consistent (with clusters obtained from the 200-hPa u wind) for all winters except the strong El Niño events of 1982/83, 1986/87, and 1997/98.

One cluster found consistently in many winters, consisting of a strong ridge over the Alaskan region and a trough over central North America, is quite similar to the Alaskan pattern identified from observations as being particularly difficult to predict and that occurs preferentially during La Niña events. Two other clusters found in many winters have no observational counterparts. A regime that is very similar to the seasonal mean response to cold tropical Pacific SSTs is seen during several La Niña winters.

A strong negative correlation between a measure of the strength of the clustering and the Niño-3 SST index is found. That this correlation is as strong as the correlation between the seasonal mean response and the same SST index indicates that the El Niño–Southern Oscillation–related SSTs affect the regime structure of intraseasonal flow as strongly as they do the mean state.

Corresponding author address: David Strauss, Center for Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Studies, 4041 Powder Mill Rd., Suite 302, Calverton, MD 20705 Email: straus@cola.iges.org

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to study the influence of tropical sea surface temperature (SST) on the midlatitude circulation regime behavior in the Pacific–North American region. Toward this end, a cluster analysis has been applied to 55-member ensembles of winter seasonal simulations of the Center for Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Studies general circulation model for 18 winters. The ensemble members for each winter utilize the same prescribed, observed weekly varying SST for that winter. The cluster analysis includes all fluctuations with time scales longer than 10 days except for the ensemble mean seasonal cycle.

Using a partitioning algorithm separately applied to each winter's ensemble, clusters are found in the 200-hPa height field that are signicant (vis-à-vis a suitable Gaussian background), reproducible (in half-length datasets), and consistent (with clusters obtained from the 200-hPa u wind) for all winters except the strong El Niño events of 1982/83, 1986/87, and 1997/98.

One cluster found consistently in many winters, consisting of a strong ridge over the Alaskan region and a trough over central North America, is quite similar to the Alaskan pattern identified from observations as being particularly difficult to predict and that occurs preferentially during La Niña events. Two other clusters found in many winters have no observational counterparts. A regime that is very similar to the seasonal mean response to cold tropical Pacific SSTs is seen during several La Niña winters.

A strong negative correlation between a measure of the strength of the clustering and the Niño-3 SST index is found. That this correlation is as strong as the correlation between the seasonal mean response and the same SST index indicates that the El Niño–Southern Oscillation–related SSTs affect the regime structure of intraseasonal flow as strongly as they do the mean state.

Corresponding author address: David Strauss, Center for Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Studies, 4041 Powder Mill Rd., Suite 302, Calverton, MD 20705 Email: straus@cola.iges.org

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