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Understanding Equatorial Atlantic Interannual Variability

Noel S. KeenlysideLeibniz-Institut für Meereswissenschaften, Kiel, Germany

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Mojib LatifLeibniz-Institut für Meereswissenschaften, Kiel, Germany

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Abstract

An observational-based analysis of coupled variability in the equatorial Atlantic and its seasonality is presented. Regression analysis shows that the three elements of the Bjerknes positive feedback exist in the Atlantic and are spatially similar to those of the Pacific. The cross-correlation functions of the elements of the Bjerknes feedback are also similar and consistent with an ocean–atmosphere coupled mode. However, the growth rate in the Atlantic is up to 50% weaker, and explained variance is significantly lower. The Bjerknes feedback in the Atlantic is strong in boreal spring and summer, and weak in other seasons, which explains why the largest sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs) occur in boreal summer. Its seasonality is determined by seasonal variations in both atmospheric sensitivity to SSTA and SSTA sensitivity to subsurface temperature anomalies.

Corresponding author address: Noel S. Keenlyside, Leibniz-Institut für Meereswissenschaften, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, D-24105 Kiel, Germany. Email: nkeenlyside@ifm-geomar.de

Abstract

An observational-based analysis of coupled variability in the equatorial Atlantic and its seasonality is presented. Regression analysis shows that the three elements of the Bjerknes positive feedback exist in the Atlantic and are spatially similar to those of the Pacific. The cross-correlation functions of the elements of the Bjerknes feedback are also similar and consistent with an ocean–atmosphere coupled mode. However, the growth rate in the Atlantic is up to 50% weaker, and explained variance is significantly lower. The Bjerknes feedback in the Atlantic is strong in boreal spring and summer, and weak in other seasons, which explains why the largest sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs) occur in boreal summer. Its seasonality is determined by seasonal variations in both atmospheric sensitivity to SSTA and SSTA sensitivity to subsurface temperature anomalies.

Corresponding author address: Noel S. Keenlyside, Leibniz-Institut für Meereswissenschaften, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, D-24105 Kiel, Germany. Email: nkeenlyside@ifm-geomar.de

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