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North Pacific Decadal Variability in the Community Climate System Model Version 2

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  • 1 Climate and Global Dynamics Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

North Pacific decadal oceanic and atmospheric variability is examined from a 650-yr control integration of the Community Climate System Model version 2. The dominant pattern of winter sea surface temperature (SST) variability is similar to the observed “Pacific decadal oscillation,” with maximum amplitude along the Kuroshio Extension. SST anomalies in this region exhibit significant spectral peaks at approximately 16 and 40 yr. Lateral geostrophic heat flux divergence, caused by a meridional shift of the Kuroshio Extension forced by basin-scale wind stress curl anomalies 3–5 yr earlier, is responsible for the decadal SST variability; local surface heat flux and Ekman heat flux divergence act as a damping and positive feedback, respectively. A simple linear Rossby wave model is invoked to explicitly demonstrate the link between the wind stress curl forcing and decadal variability in the Kuroshio Extension. The Rossby wave model not only successfully reproduces the two decadal spectral peaks, but also illustrates that only the low-frequency (>10-yr period) portion of the approximately white noise wind stress curl forcing is relevant. This model also demonstrates that the weak and insignificant decadal spectral peaks in the wind stress curl forcing are necessary for producing the corresponding strong and significant oceanic peaks in the Kuroshio Extension. The wind stress curl response to decadal SST anomalies in the Kuroshio Extension is similar in structure but opposite in sign and somewhat weaker than the wind stress curl forcing pattern. These results suggest that the simulated North Pacific decadal variability owes its existence to two-way ocean–atmosphere coupling.

Corresponding author address: Young-Oh Kwon, Physical Oceanography Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Clark 320A, MS 21, Woods Hole, MA 02543. Email: yokwon@whoi.edu

Abstract

North Pacific decadal oceanic and atmospheric variability is examined from a 650-yr control integration of the Community Climate System Model version 2. The dominant pattern of winter sea surface temperature (SST) variability is similar to the observed “Pacific decadal oscillation,” with maximum amplitude along the Kuroshio Extension. SST anomalies in this region exhibit significant spectral peaks at approximately 16 and 40 yr. Lateral geostrophic heat flux divergence, caused by a meridional shift of the Kuroshio Extension forced by basin-scale wind stress curl anomalies 3–5 yr earlier, is responsible for the decadal SST variability; local surface heat flux and Ekman heat flux divergence act as a damping and positive feedback, respectively. A simple linear Rossby wave model is invoked to explicitly demonstrate the link between the wind stress curl forcing and decadal variability in the Kuroshio Extension. The Rossby wave model not only successfully reproduces the two decadal spectral peaks, but also illustrates that only the low-frequency (>10-yr period) portion of the approximately white noise wind stress curl forcing is relevant. This model also demonstrates that the weak and insignificant decadal spectral peaks in the wind stress curl forcing are necessary for producing the corresponding strong and significant oceanic peaks in the Kuroshio Extension. The wind stress curl response to decadal SST anomalies in the Kuroshio Extension is similar in structure but opposite in sign and somewhat weaker than the wind stress curl forcing pattern. These results suggest that the simulated North Pacific decadal variability owes its existence to two-way ocean–atmosphere coupling.

Corresponding author address: Young-Oh Kwon, Physical Oceanography Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Clark 320A, MS 21, Woods Hole, MA 02543. Email: yokwon@whoi.edu

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