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Ocean Model Diagnosis of Interannual Coevolving SST Variability in the South Indian and South Atlantic Oceans

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  • 1 Department of Oceanography, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa
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Abstract

A global ocean model (ORCA2) forced with 50 yr of NCEP–NCAR reanalysis winds and heat fluxes has been used to investigate the evolution and forcing of interannual dipolelike sea surface temperature (SST) variability in the South Indian and South Atlantic Oceans. Although such patterns may also exist at times in only one of these basins and not the other, only events where there are coherent signals in both basins during the austral summer have been chosen for study in this paper. A positive (negative) event occurs when there is a significant warm (cool) SST anomaly evident in the southwest of both the South Indian and South Atlantic Oceans and a cool (warm) anomaly in the eastern subtropics.

The large-scale forcing of these events appears to consist of a coherent modulation of the wavenumber-3 or -4 pattern in the Southern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation such that the semipermanent subtropical anticyclone in each basin is shifted from its summer mean position and its strength is modulated. A relationship to the Antarctic Oscillation is also apparent, and seems to strengthen after the mid-1970s. The modulated subtropical anticyclones lead to changes in the tropical easterlies and midlatitude westerlies in the South Atlantic and South Indian Oceans that result in anomalies in latent heat fluxes, upwelling, and Ekman heat transports, all of which contribute to the SST variability. In addition, there are significant modulations to the strong Rossby wave signals in the South Indian Ocean. The results of this study confirm the ability of the ORCA2 model to represent these dipole patterns and indicate connections between large-scale modulations of the Southern Hemisphere midlatitude atmospheric circulation and coevolving SST variability in the South Atlantic and South Indian Oceans.

Corresponding author address: Dr. J. C. Hermes, Department of Oceanography, University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa. Email: jhermes@ocean.uct.ac.za

Abstract

A global ocean model (ORCA2) forced with 50 yr of NCEP–NCAR reanalysis winds and heat fluxes has been used to investigate the evolution and forcing of interannual dipolelike sea surface temperature (SST) variability in the South Indian and South Atlantic Oceans. Although such patterns may also exist at times in only one of these basins and not the other, only events where there are coherent signals in both basins during the austral summer have been chosen for study in this paper. A positive (negative) event occurs when there is a significant warm (cool) SST anomaly evident in the southwest of both the South Indian and South Atlantic Oceans and a cool (warm) anomaly in the eastern subtropics.

The large-scale forcing of these events appears to consist of a coherent modulation of the wavenumber-3 or -4 pattern in the Southern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation such that the semipermanent subtropical anticyclone in each basin is shifted from its summer mean position and its strength is modulated. A relationship to the Antarctic Oscillation is also apparent, and seems to strengthen after the mid-1970s. The modulated subtropical anticyclones lead to changes in the tropical easterlies and midlatitude westerlies in the South Atlantic and South Indian Oceans that result in anomalies in latent heat fluxes, upwelling, and Ekman heat transports, all of which contribute to the SST variability. In addition, there are significant modulations to the strong Rossby wave signals in the South Indian Ocean. The results of this study confirm the ability of the ORCA2 model to represent these dipole patterns and indicate connections between large-scale modulations of the Southern Hemisphere midlatitude atmospheric circulation and coevolving SST variability in the South Atlantic and South Indian Oceans.

Corresponding author address: Dr. J. C. Hermes, Department of Oceanography, University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa. Email: jhermes@ocean.uct.ac.za

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