Evaluation of the South Pacific Convergence Zone in IPCC AR4 Climate Model Simulations of the Twentieth Century

Josephine R. Brown Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Scott B. Power Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Francois P. Delage Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Robert A. Colman Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Aurel F. Moise Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Bradley F. Murphy Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Abstract

Understanding how the South Pacific convergence zone (SPCZ) may change in the future requires the use of global coupled atmosphere–ocean models. It is therefore important to evaluate the ability of such models to realistically simulate the SPCZ. The simulation of the SPCZ in 24 coupled model simulations of the twentieth century is examined. The models and simulations are those used for the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The seasonal climatology and interannual variability of the SPCZ is evaluated using observed and model precipitation. Twenty models simulate a distinct SPCZ, while four models merge intertropical convergence zone and SPCZ precipitation. The majority of models simulate an SPCZ with an overly zonal orientation, rather than extending in a diagonal band into the southeast Pacific as observed. Two-thirds of models capture the observed meridional displacement of the SPCZ during El Niño and La Niña events. The four models that use ocean heat flux adjustments simulate a better tropical SPCZ pattern because of a better representation of the Pacific sea surface temperature pattern and absence of cold sea surface temperature biases on the equator. However, the flux-adjusted models do not show greater skill in simulating the interannual variability of the SPCZ. While a small subset of models does not adequately reproduce the climatology or variability of the SPCZ, the majority of models are able to capture the main features of SPCZ climatology and variability, and they can therefore be used with some confidence for future climate projections.

Corresponding author address: Josephine R. Brown, Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 1289, Melbourne VIC 3001, Australia. Email: j.brown@bom.gov.au

Abstract

Understanding how the South Pacific convergence zone (SPCZ) may change in the future requires the use of global coupled atmosphere–ocean models. It is therefore important to evaluate the ability of such models to realistically simulate the SPCZ. The simulation of the SPCZ in 24 coupled model simulations of the twentieth century is examined. The models and simulations are those used for the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The seasonal climatology and interannual variability of the SPCZ is evaluated using observed and model precipitation. Twenty models simulate a distinct SPCZ, while four models merge intertropical convergence zone and SPCZ precipitation. The majority of models simulate an SPCZ with an overly zonal orientation, rather than extending in a diagonal band into the southeast Pacific as observed. Two-thirds of models capture the observed meridional displacement of the SPCZ during El Niño and La Niña events. The four models that use ocean heat flux adjustments simulate a better tropical SPCZ pattern because of a better representation of the Pacific sea surface temperature pattern and absence of cold sea surface temperature biases on the equator. However, the flux-adjusted models do not show greater skill in simulating the interannual variability of the SPCZ. While a small subset of models does not adequately reproduce the climatology or variability of the SPCZ, the majority of models are able to capture the main features of SPCZ climatology and variability, and they can therefore be used with some confidence for future climate projections.

Corresponding author address: Josephine R. Brown, Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 1289, Melbourne VIC 3001, Australia. Email: j.brown@bom.gov.au

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