Tropical Pacific Ocean Dynamical Response to Short-Term Sulfate Aerosol Forcing

Tarun Verma Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico

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R. Saravanan Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

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P. Chang Department of Atmospheric Sciences, and Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

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S. Mahajan Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

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Abstract

The large-scale and long-term climate impacts of anthropogenic sulfate aerosols consist of Northern Hemisphere cooling and a southward shift of the tropical rain belt. On interannual time scales, however, the response to aerosols is localized with a sizable imprint on local ocean–atmosphere interaction. A large concentration of anthropogenic sulfates over Asia may impact ENSO by modifying processes and interactions that generate this coupled ocean–atmosphere variability. Here, we use climate model experiments with different degrees of ocean–atmosphere coupling to study the tropical Pacific response to an abrupt increase in anthropogenic sulfates. These include an atmospheric general circulation model (GCM) coupled to either a full-ocean GCM or a slab-ocean model, or simply forced by climatology of sea surface temperature. Comparing the responses helps differentiate between the fast atmospheric and slow ocean-mediated responses, and highlights the role of ocean–atmosphere coupling in the latter. We demonstrate the link between the Walker circulation and the equatorial Pacific upper-ocean dynamics in response to increased sulfate aerosols. The local surface cooling due to sulfate aerosols emitted over the Asian continent drives atmospheric subsidence over the equatorial west Pacific. The associated anomalous circulation imparts westerly momentum to the underlying Pacific Ocean, leading to an El Niño–like upper-ocean response and a transient warming of the east equatorial Pacific Ocean. The oceanic adjustment eventually contributes to its decay, giving rise to a damped oscillation of the tropical Pacific Ocean in response to abrupt anthropogenic sulfate aerosol forcing.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Tarun Verma, tarunverma@lanl.gov

Abstract

The large-scale and long-term climate impacts of anthropogenic sulfate aerosols consist of Northern Hemisphere cooling and a southward shift of the tropical rain belt. On interannual time scales, however, the response to aerosols is localized with a sizable imprint on local ocean–atmosphere interaction. A large concentration of anthropogenic sulfates over Asia may impact ENSO by modifying processes and interactions that generate this coupled ocean–atmosphere variability. Here, we use climate model experiments with different degrees of ocean–atmosphere coupling to study the tropical Pacific response to an abrupt increase in anthropogenic sulfates. These include an atmospheric general circulation model (GCM) coupled to either a full-ocean GCM or a slab-ocean model, or simply forced by climatology of sea surface temperature. Comparing the responses helps differentiate between the fast atmospheric and slow ocean-mediated responses, and highlights the role of ocean–atmosphere coupling in the latter. We demonstrate the link between the Walker circulation and the equatorial Pacific upper-ocean dynamics in response to increased sulfate aerosols. The local surface cooling due to sulfate aerosols emitted over the Asian continent drives atmospheric subsidence over the equatorial west Pacific. The associated anomalous circulation imparts westerly momentum to the underlying Pacific Ocean, leading to an El Niño–like upper-ocean response and a transient warming of the east equatorial Pacific Ocean. The oceanic adjustment eventually contributes to its decay, giving rise to a damped oscillation of the tropical Pacific Ocean in response to abrupt anthropogenic sulfate aerosol forcing.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Tarun Verma, tarunverma@lanl.gov
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