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Origin of Pacific Multidecadal Variability in Community Climate System Model, Version 3 (CCSM3): A Combined Statistical and Dynamical Assessment

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  • 1 Center for Climate Research, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
  • | 2 Argonne National Laboratory, Department of Energy, Argonne, Illinois
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Abstract

Observations indicate that Pacific multidecadal variability (PMV) is a basinwide phenomenon with robust tropical–extratropical linkage, though its genesis remains the topic of much debate. In this study, the PMV in the Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3) is investigated with a combined statistical and dynamical approach. In agreement with observations, the modeled North Pacific climate system undergoes coherent multidecadal atmospheric and oceanic variability of a characteristic quasi-50-yr time scale, with apparent connections to the tropical Indo-Pacific.

The statistical assessment based on the CCSM3 control integration cannot exclusively identify the origin of the modeled multidecadal linkage, while confirming the two-way interactions between the tropical and extratropical Pacific. Two sensitivity experiments are performed to further investigate the origin of the PMV. With the atmosphere decoupled from the tropical ocean, multidecadal variability in the North Pacific climate remains outstanding. In contrast, without midlatitude oceanic feedback to atmosphere, an experiment shows much reduced multidecadal power in both extratropical atmosphere and surface ocean; moreover, the tropical multidecadal variability seen in the CCSM3 control run virtually disappears. The combined statistical and dynamical assessment supports a midlatitude coupled origin for the PMV, which can be described as follows: extratropical large-scale air–sea interaction gives rise to multidecadal variability in the North Pacific region; this extratropical signal then imprints itself in the tropical Indo–Pacific climate system, through a robust tropical–extratropical teleconnection. This study highlights a midlatitude origin of multidecadal tropical–extratropical linkage in the Pacific in the CCSM3.

Corresponding author address: Yafang Zhong, Center for Climate Research, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, WI 53706. Email: yafangzhong@wisc.edu

Abstract

Observations indicate that Pacific multidecadal variability (PMV) is a basinwide phenomenon with robust tropical–extratropical linkage, though its genesis remains the topic of much debate. In this study, the PMV in the Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3) is investigated with a combined statistical and dynamical approach. In agreement with observations, the modeled North Pacific climate system undergoes coherent multidecadal atmospheric and oceanic variability of a characteristic quasi-50-yr time scale, with apparent connections to the tropical Indo-Pacific.

The statistical assessment based on the CCSM3 control integration cannot exclusively identify the origin of the modeled multidecadal linkage, while confirming the two-way interactions between the tropical and extratropical Pacific. Two sensitivity experiments are performed to further investigate the origin of the PMV. With the atmosphere decoupled from the tropical ocean, multidecadal variability in the North Pacific climate remains outstanding. In contrast, without midlatitude oceanic feedback to atmosphere, an experiment shows much reduced multidecadal power in both extratropical atmosphere and surface ocean; moreover, the tropical multidecadal variability seen in the CCSM3 control run virtually disappears. The combined statistical and dynamical assessment supports a midlatitude coupled origin for the PMV, which can be described as follows: extratropical large-scale air–sea interaction gives rise to multidecadal variability in the North Pacific region; this extratropical signal then imprints itself in the tropical Indo–Pacific climate system, through a robust tropical–extratropical teleconnection. This study highlights a midlatitude origin of multidecadal tropical–extratropical linkage in the Pacific in the CCSM3.

Corresponding author address: Yafang Zhong, Center for Climate Research, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, WI 53706. Email: yafangzhong@wisc.edu

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