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Atmospheric Conditions Associated with Labrador Sea Deep Convection: New Insights from a Case Study of the 2006/07 and 2007/08 Winters

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  • 1 Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
  • 2 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
  • 3 Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, and Qingdao Collaborative Innovation Center of Marine Science and Technology, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, China
  • 4 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

Deep convection in the Labrador Sea (LS) resumed in the winter of 2007/08 under a moderately positive North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) state. This is in sharp contrast with the previous winter with weak convection, despite a similar positive NAO state. This disparity is explored here by analyzing reanalysis data and forced-ocean simulations. It is found that the difference in deep convection is primarily due to differences in large-scale atmospheric conditions that are not accounted for by the conventional NAO definition. Specifically, the 2007/08 winter was characterized by an atmospheric circulation anomaly centered in the western North Atlantic, rather than the eastern North Atlantic that the conventional NAO emphasizes. This anomalous circulation was also accompanied by anomalously cold conditions over northern North America. The controlling influence of these atmospheric conditions on LS deep convection in the 2008 winter is confirmed by sensitivity experiments where surface forcing and/or initial conditions are modified. An extended analysis for the 1949–2009 period shows that about half of the winters with strong heat losses in the LS are associated with such a west-centered circulation anomaly and cold conditions over northern North America. These are found to be accompanied by La Niña–like conditions in the tropical Pacific, suggesting that the atmospheric response to La Niña may have a strong influence on LS deep convection.

Current affiliation: National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Corresponding author address: W. M. Kim, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Oceanography Section, CGD, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. E-mail: whokim@ucar.edu

Abstract

Deep convection in the Labrador Sea (LS) resumed in the winter of 2007/08 under a moderately positive North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) state. This is in sharp contrast with the previous winter with weak convection, despite a similar positive NAO state. This disparity is explored here by analyzing reanalysis data and forced-ocean simulations. It is found that the difference in deep convection is primarily due to differences in large-scale atmospheric conditions that are not accounted for by the conventional NAO definition. Specifically, the 2007/08 winter was characterized by an atmospheric circulation anomaly centered in the western North Atlantic, rather than the eastern North Atlantic that the conventional NAO emphasizes. This anomalous circulation was also accompanied by anomalously cold conditions over northern North America. The controlling influence of these atmospheric conditions on LS deep convection in the 2008 winter is confirmed by sensitivity experiments where surface forcing and/or initial conditions are modified. An extended analysis for the 1949–2009 period shows that about half of the winters with strong heat losses in the LS are associated with such a west-centered circulation anomaly and cold conditions over northern North America. These are found to be accompanied by La Niña–like conditions in the tropical Pacific, suggesting that the atmospheric response to La Niña may have a strong influence on LS deep convection.

Current affiliation: National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Corresponding author address: W. M. Kim, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Oceanography Section, CGD, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. E-mail: whokim@ucar.edu
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