Beyond Thermal Interaction between Ocean and Atmosphere: On the Extratropical Climate Variability due to the Wind-Induced SST

Dong Eun Lee Center for Climate Research, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

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Zhengyu Liu Center for Climate Research, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

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Yun Liu Center for Climate Research, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

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Abstract

Prescribing sea surface temperature (SST) for the atmospheric general circulation models (GCM) may not lead to underestimation of the coupled variability. In this study, a set of SST-driven atmospheric GCM experiments, starting from slightly different multiple initial conditions, is performed. The SST used here is prepared by a coupled GCM, which has the same atmospheric GCM component as the AGCM used in the experiment with the prescribed SST. The results indicate that prescribing SST leads to underestimation of the coupled air temperature variance only in subtropics. Meanwhile, in midlatitudes, prescribing SST may result in the overestimation of the coupled air temperature variance, where the major role of ocean–atmosphere contrast is to provide damping for SST.

The simple stochastically driven coupled model is revisited with an extension to the direct wind-driven forcing for SST. In addition to the previous setup relying exclusively on the stochastic perturbation for air temperature, the ocean temperature is also forced by the pure random wind. By this extended model, it is speculated that the coupled air temperature variance can be overestimated by prescribing SST, depending on the sensitivity of SST to the wind-driven heat flux. The midlatitude is the most probable place for the overestimation since the wind-driven ocean dynamics can enhance the wind-driven surface heat flux due to the dominant zonal wind anomaly.

Corresponding author address: Dong Eun Lee, IRI, Earth Institute, Columbia University, Lamont Campus, 61 Route 9W, Monell Building, Rm. 202A, Palisades, NY 10964. Email: dlee@iri.columbia.edu

Abstract

Prescribing sea surface temperature (SST) for the atmospheric general circulation models (GCM) may not lead to underestimation of the coupled variability. In this study, a set of SST-driven atmospheric GCM experiments, starting from slightly different multiple initial conditions, is performed. The SST used here is prepared by a coupled GCM, which has the same atmospheric GCM component as the AGCM used in the experiment with the prescribed SST. The results indicate that prescribing SST leads to underestimation of the coupled air temperature variance only in subtropics. Meanwhile, in midlatitudes, prescribing SST may result in the overestimation of the coupled air temperature variance, where the major role of ocean–atmosphere contrast is to provide damping for SST.

The simple stochastically driven coupled model is revisited with an extension to the direct wind-driven forcing for SST. In addition to the previous setup relying exclusively on the stochastic perturbation for air temperature, the ocean temperature is also forced by the pure random wind. By this extended model, it is speculated that the coupled air temperature variance can be overestimated by prescribing SST, depending on the sensitivity of SST to the wind-driven heat flux. The midlatitude is the most probable place for the overestimation since the wind-driven ocean dynamics can enhance the wind-driven surface heat flux due to the dominant zonal wind anomaly.

Corresponding author address: Dong Eun Lee, IRI, Earth Institute, Columbia University, Lamont Campus, 61 Route 9W, Monell Building, Rm. 202A, Palisades, NY 10964. Email: dlee@iri.columbia.edu

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