Investigating the Roles of External Forcing and Ocean Circulation on the Atlantic Multidecadal SST Variability in a Large Ensemble Climate Model Hierarchy

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  • 1 Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA
  • 2 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, NY, USA
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Abstract

This paper attempts to enhance our understanding of the causes of Atlantic Multidecadal Variability, the AMV. Following the literature, we define the AMV as the SST averaged over the North Atlantic basin, linearly detrended and low-pass filtered. There is an ongoing debate about the drivers of the AMV, which include internal variability generated from the ocean or atmosphere (or both), and external radiative forcing. We test the role of these factors in explaining the time history, variance, and spatial pattern of the AMV using a 41-member ensemble from a fully coupled version of CESM and a 10-member ensemble of the CESM atmosphere coupled to a slab ocean. The large ensemble allows us to isolate the role of external forcing versus internal variability, and the model differences allow us to isolate the role of coupled ocean circulation. Both with and without coupled ocean circulation, external forcing explains more than half of the variance of the observed AMV time series, indicating its important role in simulating the 20th century AMV phases. In this model the net effect of ocean processes is to reduce the variance of the AMV. Dynamical ocean coupling also reduces the ability of the model to simulate the characteristic spatial pattern of the AMV, but forcing has little impact on the pattern. Historical forcing improves the time history and variance of the AMV simulation, whilst the more realistic ocean representation reduces the variance below that observed and lowers the correlation with observations.

Corresponding Author: Lisa N. Murphy, email: lmurphy@rsmas.miami.edu

Abstract

This paper attempts to enhance our understanding of the causes of Atlantic Multidecadal Variability, the AMV. Following the literature, we define the AMV as the SST averaged over the North Atlantic basin, linearly detrended and low-pass filtered. There is an ongoing debate about the drivers of the AMV, which include internal variability generated from the ocean or atmosphere (or both), and external radiative forcing. We test the role of these factors in explaining the time history, variance, and spatial pattern of the AMV using a 41-member ensemble from a fully coupled version of CESM and a 10-member ensemble of the CESM atmosphere coupled to a slab ocean. The large ensemble allows us to isolate the role of external forcing versus internal variability, and the model differences allow us to isolate the role of coupled ocean circulation. Both with and without coupled ocean circulation, external forcing explains more than half of the variance of the observed AMV time series, indicating its important role in simulating the 20th century AMV phases. In this model the net effect of ocean processes is to reduce the variance of the AMV. Dynamical ocean coupling also reduces the ability of the model to simulate the characteristic spatial pattern of the AMV, but forcing has little impact on the pattern. Historical forcing improves the time history and variance of the AMV simulation, whilst the more realistic ocean representation reduces the variance below that observed and lowers the correlation with observations.

Corresponding Author: Lisa N. Murphy, email: lmurphy@rsmas.miami.edu
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