Diurnal Coupling in the Tropical Oceans of CCSM3

Gokhan Danabasoglu National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado

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William G. Large National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado

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Joseph J. Tribbia National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado

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Peter R. Gent National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado

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Bruce P. Briegleb National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado

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James C. McWilliams National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado, and Department of Atmospheric Sciences, and Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California

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Abstract

New features that may affect the behavior of the upper ocean in the Community Climate System Model version 3 (CCSM3) are described. In particular, the addition of an idealized diurnal cycle of solar forcing where the daily mean solar radiation received in each daily coupling interval is distributed over 12 daylight hours is evaluated. The motivation for this simple diurnal cycle is to improve the behavior of the upper ocean, relative to the constant forcing over each day of previous CCSM versions. Both 1- and 3-h coupling intervals are also considered as possible alternatives that explicitly resolve the diurnal cycle of solar forcing. The most prominent and robust effects of all these diurnal cycles are found in the tropical oceans, especially in the Pacific. Here, the mean equatorial sea surface temperature (SST) is warmed by as much as 1°C, in better agreement with observations, and the mean boundary layer depth is reduced. Simple rectification of the diurnal cycle explains about half of the shallowing, but less than 0.1°C of the warming. The atmospheric response to prescribed warm SST anomalies of about 1°C displays a very different heat flux signature. The implication, yet to be verified, is that large-scale air–sea coupling is a prime mechanism for amplifying the rectified, daily averaged SST signals seen by the atmosphere. Although the use of upper-layer temperature for SST in CCSM3 underestimates the diurnal cycle of SST, many of the essential characteristics of diurnal cycling within the equatorial ocean are reproduced, including boundary layer depth, currents, and the parameterized vertical heat and momentum fluxes associated with deep-cycle turbulence. The conclusion is that the implementation of an idealized diurnal cycle of solar forcing may make more frequent ocean coupling and its computational complications unnecessary as improvements to the air–sea coupling in CCSM3 continue. A caveat here is that more frequent ocean coupling tends to reduce the long-term cooling trends typical of CCSM3 by heating already too warm ocean depths, but longer integrations are needed to determine robust features. A clear result is that the absence of diurnal solar forcing of the ocean has several undesirable consequences in CCSM3, including too large ENSO variability, much too cold Pacific equatorial SST, and no deep-cycle turbulence.

* The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation

Corresponding author address: Dr. Gokhan Danabasoglu, National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. Email: gokhan@ucar.edu

Abstract

New features that may affect the behavior of the upper ocean in the Community Climate System Model version 3 (CCSM3) are described. In particular, the addition of an idealized diurnal cycle of solar forcing where the daily mean solar radiation received in each daily coupling interval is distributed over 12 daylight hours is evaluated. The motivation for this simple diurnal cycle is to improve the behavior of the upper ocean, relative to the constant forcing over each day of previous CCSM versions. Both 1- and 3-h coupling intervals are also considered as possible alternatives that explicitly resolve the diurnal cycle of solar forcing. The most prominent and robust effects of all these diurnal cycles are found in the tropical oceans, especially in the Pacific. Here, the mean equatorial sea surface temperature (SST) is warmed by as much as 1°C, in better agreement with observations, and the mean boundary layer depth is reduced. Simple rectification of the diurnal cycle explains about half of the shallowing, but less than 0.1°C of the warming. The atmospheric response to prescribed warm SST anomalies of about 1°C displays a very different heat flux signature. The implication, yet to be verified, is that large-scale air–sea coupling is a prime mechanism for amplifying the rectified, daily averaged SST signals seen by the atmosphere. Although the use of upper-layer temperature for SST in CCSM3 underestimates the diurnal cycle of SST, many of the essential characteristics of diurnal cycling within the equatorial ocean are reproduced, including boundary layer depth, currents, and the parameterized vertical heat and momentum fluxes associated with deep-cycle turbulence. The conclusion is that the implementation of an idealized diurnal cycle of solar forcing may make more frequent ocean coupling and its computational complications unnecessary as improvements to the air–sea coupling in CCSM3 continue. A caveat here is that more frequent ocean coupling tends to reduce the long-term cooling trends typical of CCSM3 by heating already too warm ocean depths, but longer integrations are needed to determine robust features. A clear result is that the absence of diurnal solar forcing of the ocean has several undesirable consequences in CCSM3, including too large ENSO variability, much too cold Pacific equatorial SST, and no deep-cycle turbulence.

* The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation

Corresponding author address: Dr. Gokhan Danabasoglu, National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. Email: gokhan@ucar.edu

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