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The Vertical Structures of Atmospheric Temperature Anomalies Associated with Two Flavors of El Niño Simulated by AMIP II Models

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  • 1 LASG, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
  • | 2 LASG, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
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Abstract

Recent studies have identified different modes associated with two flavors of El Niño in terms of the three-dimensional structure of atmospheric temperature. The first is a deep-warm mode, which features a coherent zonal mean warming throughout the troposphere from 30°N to 30°S with cooling aloft. The second is a shallow-warm mode, which features strong wave signatures in the troposphere with warmth (coolness) over the central Pacific (western Pacific). The ability to simulate these two modes is a useful metric for evaluating climate models. To understand the reproducibility of these two modes, the authors analyzed the multimodel ensemble mean (MMEM) of 11 atmospheric general circulation models (AGCMs) that participated in the second phase of the Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP II). Each model was run in an AGCM-alone mode forced by historical sea surface temperatures covering the period 1980–99. The authors find that atmospheric temperature variability is generally well captured in the MMEM of AMIP II models, demonstrating that the observational changes documented here are driven by SST changes during the El Niño events and the variety of vertical temperature structures associated with two flavors of El Niño are highly reproducible. The model skill for the first mode is slightly higher than the second mode. The skill in the upper troposphere–lower stratosphere is lower than for the tropospheric counterpart, especially at high latitudes. The performances of individual models are also assessed. The authors also show some differences from previous data analyses, including the variance accounted for by the two modes, as well as the lead–lag relationship of the shallow-warm mode with the Niño-3.4 index.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Tianjun Zhou, LASG, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, China. Email: zhoutj@lasg.iap.ac.cn

Abstract

Recent studies have identified different modes associated with two flavors of El Niño in terms of the three-dimensional structure of atmospheric temperature. The first is a deep-warm mode, which features a coherent zonal mean warming throughout the troposphere from 30°N to 30°S with cooling aloft. The second is a shallow-warm mode, which features strong wave signatures in the troposphere with warmth (coolness) over the central Pacific (western Pacific). The ability to simulate these two modes is a useful metric for evaluating climate models. To understand the reproducibility of these two modes, the authors analyzed the multimodel ensemble mean (MMEM) of 11 atmospheric general circulation models (AGCMs) that participated in the second phase of the Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP II). Each model was run in an AGCM-alone mode forced by historical sea surface temperatures covering the period 1980–99. The authors find that atmospheric temperature variability is generally well captured in the MMEM of AMIP II models, demonstrating that the observational changes documented here are driven by SST changes during the El Niño events and the variety of vertical temperature structures associated with two flavors of El Niño are highly reproducible. The model skill for the first mode is slightly higher than the second mode. The skill in the upper troposphere–lower stratosphere is lower than for the tropospheric counterpart, especially at high latitudes. The performances of individual models are also assessed. The authors also show some differences from previous data analyses, including the variance accounted for by the two modes, as well as the lead–lag relationship of the shallow-warm mode with the Niño-3.4 index.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Tianjun Zhou, LASG, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, China. Email: zhoutj@lasg.iap.ac.cn

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