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Indian Ocean Dipole Response to Global Warming: Analysis of Ocean–Atmospheric Feedbacks in a Coupled Model

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  • 1 Physical Oceanography Laboratory and Ocean–Atmosphere Interaction and Climate Laboratory, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, China
  • | 2 International Pacific Research Center and Department of Meteorology, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii
  • | 3 NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, New Jersey
  • | 4 Physical Oceanography Laboratory and Ocean–Atmosphere Interaction and Climate Laboratory, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, China
  • | 5 International Pacific Research Center and Department of Meteorology, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii
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Abstract

Low-frequency modulation and change under global warming of the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) mode are investigated with a pair of multicentury integrations of a coupled ocean–atmosphere general circulation model: one under constant climate forcing and one forced by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. In the unforced simulation, there is significant decadal and multidecadal modulation of the IOD variance. The mean thermocline depth in the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean (EEIO) is important for the slow modulation, skewness, and ENSO correlation of the IOD. With a shoaling (deepening) of the EEIO thermocline, the thermocline feedback strengthens, and this leads to an increase in IOD variance, a reduction of the negative skewness of the IOD, and a weakening of the IOD–ENSO correlation.

In response to increasing greenhouse gases, a weakening of the Walker circulation leads to easterly wind anomalies in the equatorial Indian Ocean; the oceanic response to weakened circulation is a thermocline shoaling in the EEIO. Under greenhouse forcing, the thermocline feedback intensifies, but surprisingly IOD variance does not. The zonal wind anomalies associated with IOD are found to weaken, likely due to increased static stability of the troposphere from global warming. Linear model experiments confirm this stability effect to reduce circulation response to a sea surface temperature dipole. The opposing changes in thermocline and atmospheric feedbacks result in little change in IOD variance, but the shoaling thermocline weakens IOD skewness. Little change under global warming in IOD variance in the model suggests that the apparent intensification of IOD activity during recent decades is likely part of natural, chaotic modulation of the ocean–atmosphere system or the response to nongreenhouse gas radiative changes.

Corresponding author address: Xiao-Tong Zheng, College of Physical and Environmental Oceanography, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, 266100, China. Email: xzheng@hawaii.edu

Abstract

Low-frequency modulation and change under global warming of the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) mode are investigated with a pair of multicentury integrations of a coupled ocean–atmosphere general circulation model: one under constant climate forcing and one forced by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. In the unforced simulation, there is significant decadal and multidecadal modulation of the IOD variance. The mean thermocline depth in the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean (EEIO) is important for the slow modulation, skewness, and ENSO correlation of the IOD. With a shoaling (deepening) of the EEIO thermocline, the thermocline feedback strengthens, and this leads to an increase in IOD variance, a reduction of the negative skewness of the IOD, and a weakening of the IOD–ENSO correlation.

In response to increasing greenhouse gases, a weakening of the Walker circulation leads to easterly wind anomalies in the equatorial Indian Ocean; the oceanic response to weakened circulation is a thermocline shoaling in the EEIO. Under greenhouse forcing, the thermocline feedback intensifies, but surprisingly IOD variance does not. The zonal wind anomalies associated with IOD are found to weaken, likely due to increased static stability of the troposphere from global warming. Linear model experiments confirm this stability effect to reduce circulation response to a sea surface temperature dipole. The opposing changes in thermocline and atmospheric feedbacks result in little change in IOD variance, but the shoaling thermocline weakens IOD skewness. Little change under global warming in IOD variance in the model suggests that the apparent intensification of IOD activity during recent decades is likely part of natural, chaotic modulation of the ocean–atmosphere system or the response to nongreenhouse gas radiative changes.

Corresponding author address: Xiao-Tong Zheng, College of Physical and Environmental Oceanography, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, 266100, China. Email: xzheng@hawaii.edu

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