Role of the Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation in the Tropical Pacific SST Changes

Jingzhi Su Nansen-Zhu International Research Centre, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, and Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, Bergen, Norway

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Huijun Wang Nansen-Zhu International Research Centre, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

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Haijun Yang Department of Atmospheric Science, School of Physics, Peking University, Beijing, China

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Helge Drange Nansen-Zhu International Research Centre, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, and Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway

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Yongqi Gao Nansen-Zhu International Research Centre, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, and Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway

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Mats Bentsen Nansen-Zhu International Research Centre, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, and Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway

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Abstract

A coupled climate model is used to explore the response of the tropical sea surface temperature (SST) to positive SST anomalies in the global extratropics. The main model results here are consistent with previous numerical studies. In response to prescribed SST anomalies in the extratropics, the tropical SSTs rise rapidly and reach a quasi-equilibrium state within several years, and the tropical subsurface temperatures show a slow response. The annual-mean Hadley cell, as well as the surface trades, are weakened. The weakened trades reduce the poleward Ekman transports in the tropical ocean and, furthermore, lead to anomalous positive convergences of heat transport, which is the main mechanism for maintaining the tropical Pacific SST warming.

The process of an extratropical influence on the tropics is related to both the atmospheric and oceanic circulations. The intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) moves southward and eastward in the Pacific, corresponding to a reduction of the Hadley circulation and Walker circulation. At the same time, convective precipitation anomalies are formed on the boundary of the climatological ITCZ, while the climatological mean convections centered in the Southeast Asia region are suppressed. The largely delayed response of the tropical subsurface temperature cannot be explained only by the strength change of the subtropical cells (STCs), but can be traced back to the slow changing of subsurface temperature in the extratropics. In the extratropical oceans, warming and freshening reduce the surface water density, and the outcropping lines of certain isopycnal layers are moved poleward. This poleward movement of outcropping lines can weaken the positive temperature anomalies, or even lead to negative anomalies, on given isopycnal layers. Displayed on time-dependent isopycnal layers, positive subsurface temperature anomalies are present only in the region after subduction, and are subsequently replaced by negative temperature anomalies in the deep tropics regions. The noticeable features of the density compensation of temperature and salinity indicate that diapycnal processes play an important role in the equatorward transport of the temperature and salinity anomalies from the midlatitude.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Jingzhi Su, Nansen-Zhu International Research Centre, IAP/CAS, ChaoYang District, Beijing 100029, China. Email: sujz@mail.iap.ac.cn

Abstract

A coupled climate model is used to explore the response of the tropical sea surface temperature (SST) to positive SST anomalies in the global extratropics. The main model results here are consistent with previous numerical studies. In response to prescribed SST anomalies in the extratropics, the tropical SSTs rise rapidly and reach a quasi-equilibrium state within several years, and the tropical subsurface temperatures show a slow response. The annual-mean Hadley cell, as well as the surface trades, are weakened. The weakened trades reduce the poleward Ekman transports in the tropical ocean and, furthermore, lead to anomalous positive convergences of heat transport, which is the main mechanism for maintaining the tropical Pacific SST warming.

The process of an extratropical influence on the tropics is related to both the atmospheric and oceanic circulations. The intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) moves southward and eastward in the Pacific, corresponding to a reduction of the Hadley circulation and Walker circulation. At the same time, convective precipitation anomalies are formed on the boundary of the climatological ITCZ, while the climatological mean convections centered in the Southeast Asia region are suppressed. The largely delayed response of the tropical subsurface temperature cannot be explained only by the strength change of the subtropical cells (STCs), but can be traced back to the slow changing of subsurface temperature in the extratropics. In the extratropical oceans, warming and freshening reduce the surface water density, and the outcropping lines of certain isopycnal layers are moved poleward. This poleward movement of outcropping lines can weaken the positive temperature anomalies, or even lead to negative anomalies, on given isopycnal layers. Displayed on time-dependent isopycnal layers, positive subsurface temperature anomalies are present only in the region after subduction, and are subsequently replaced by negative temperature anomalies in the deep tropics regions. The noticeable features of the density compensation of temperature and salinity indicate that diapycnal processes play an important role in the equatorward transport of the temperature and salinity anomalies from the midlatitude.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Jingzhi Su, Nansen-Zhu International Research Centre, IAP/CAS, ChaoYang District, Beijing 100029, China. Email: sujz@mail.iap.ac.cn

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