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Akira Kuwano-Yoshida, Shoshiro Minobe, and Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

The precipitation response to sea surface temperature (SST) gradients associated with the Gulf Stream is investigated using an atmospheric general circulation model. Forced by observed SST, the model simulates a narrow band of precipitation, surface convergence, and evaporation that closely follows the Gulf Stream, much like satellite observations. Such a Gulf Stream rainband disappears in the model when the SST front is removed by horizontally smoothing SST. The analysis herein shows that it is convective precipitation that is sensitive to SST gradients. The Gulf Stream anchors a convective rainband by creating surface wind convergence and intensifying surface evaporation on the warmer flank. Deep convection develops near the Gulf Stream in summer when the atmosphere is conditionally unstable. As a result, a narrow band of upward velocity develops above the Gulf Stream throughout the troposphere in summer, while it is limited to the lower troposphere in other seasons.

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Young-Oh Kwon, Michael A. Alexander, Nicholas A. Bond, Claude Frankignoul, Hisashi Nakamura, Bo Qiu, and Lu Anne Thompson

Abstract

Ocean–atmosphere interaction over the Northern Hemisphere western boundary current (WBC) regions (i.e., the Gulf Stream, Kuroshio, Oyashio, and their extensions) is reviewed with an emphasis on their role in basin-scale climate variability. SST anomalies exhibit considerable variance on interannual to decadal time scales in these regions. Low-frequency SST variability is primarily driven by basin-scale wind stress curl variability via the oceanic Rossby wave adjustment of the gyre-scale circulation that modulates the latitude and strength of the WBC-related oceanic fronts. Rectification of the variability by mesoscale eddies, reemergence of the anomalies from the preceding winter, and tropical remote forcing also play important roles in driving and maintaining the low-frequency variability in these regions. In the Gulf Stream region, interaction with the deep western boundary current also likely influences the low-frequency variability. Surface heat fluxes damp the low-frequency SST anomalies over the WBC regions; thus, heat fluxes originate with heat anomalies in the ocean and have the potential to drive the overlying atmospheric circulation. While recent observational studies demonstrate a local atmospheric boundary layer response to WBC changes, the latter’s influence on the large-scale atmospheric circulation is still unclear. Nevertheless, heat and moisture fluxes from the WBCs into the atmosphere influence the mean state of the atmospheric circulation, including anchoring the latitude of the storm tracks to the WBCs. Furthermore, many climate models suggest that the large-scale atmospheric response to SST anomalies driven by ocean dynamics in WBC regions can be important in generating decadal climate variability. As a step toward bridging climate model results and observations, the degree of realism of the WBC in current climate model simulations is assessed. Finally, outstanding issues concerning ocean–atmosphere interaction in WBC regions and its impact on climate variability are discussed.

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Jeffrey Shaman, R. M. Samelson, and Eric Skyllingstad

Abstract

The intraseasonal variability of turbulent surface heat fluxes over the Gulf Stream extension and subtropical mode water regions of the North Atlantic, and long-term trends in these fluxes, are explored using NCEP–NCAR reanalysis. Wintertime sensible and latent heat fluxes from these surface waters are characterized by episodic high flux events due to cold air outbreaks from North America. Up to 60% of the November–March (NDJFM) total sensible heat flux and 45% of latent heat flux occurs on these high flux days. On average 41% (34%) of the total NDJFM sensible (latent) heat flux takes place during just 17% (20%) of the days. Over the last 60 years, seasonal NDJFM sensible and latent heat fluxes over the Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) Mode Water Dynamic Experiment (CLIMODE) region have increased owing to an increased number of high flux event days. The increased storm frequency has altered average wintertime temperature conditions in the region, producing colder surface air conditions over the North American eastern seaboard and Labrador Sea and warmer temperatures over the Sargasso Sea. These temperature changes have increased low-level vertical wind shear and baroclinicity along the North Atlantic storm track over the last 60 years and may further favor the trend of increasing storm frequency over the Gulf Stream extension and adjacent region.

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Hailan Wang, Siegfried Schubert, Max Suarez, and Randal Koster

Abstract

This study uses the NASA Seasonal-to-Interannual Prediction Project (NSIPP-1) AGCM to investigate the physical mechanisms by which the leading patterns of annual mean SST variability impact U.S. precipitation. The focus is on a cold Pacific pattern and a warm Atlantic pattern that exert significant drought conditions over the U.S. continent. The precipitation response to the cold Pacific is characterized by persistent deficits over the Great Plains that peak in summer with a secondary peak in spring, and weakly pluvial conditions in summer over the Southeast (SE). The precipitation response to the warm Atlantic is dominated by persistent deficits over the Great Plains with the maximum deficit occurring in late summer. The precipitation response to the warm Atlantic is overall similar to the response to the cold Pacific with, however, considerably weaker amplitude.

An analysis of the atmospheric moisture budget combined with a stationary wave model diagnosis of the associated atmospheric circulation anomalies is conducted to investigate mechanisms of the precipitation responses. A key result is that, while the cold Pacific and warm Atlantic are two spatially distinct SST patterns, they nevertheless produce similar diabatic heating anomalies over the Gulf of Mexico during the warm season. In the case of the Atlantic forcing, the heating anomalies are a direct response to the SST anomalies, whereas in the case of Pacific forcing they are a secondary response to circulation anomalies forced from the tropical Pacific. The diabatic heating anomalies in both cases force an anomalous low-level cyclonic flow over the Gulf of Mexico that leads to reduced moisture transport into the central United States and increased moisture transport into the eastern United States. The precipitation deficits over the Great Plains in both cases are greatly amplified by the strong soil moisture feedback in the NSIPP-1 AGCM. In contrast, the response over the SE to the cold Pacific during spring is primarily associated with an upper-tropospheric high anomaly over the southern United States that is remotely forced by tropical Pacific diabatic heating anomalies, leading to greatly reduced stationary moisture flux convergences and anomalous subsidence in that region. Moderately reduced evaporation and weakened transient moisture flux convergences play secondary roles. It is only during spring that these three terms are all negative and constructively contribute to produce the maximum dry response in spring.

The above findings based on the NSIPP-1 AGCM are generally consistent with observations, as well as with four other AGCMs included in the U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) project.

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Takeaki Sampe, Hisashi Nakamura, Atsushi Goto, and Wataru Ohfuchi

Abstract

In a set of idealized “aquaplanet” experiments with an atmospheric general circulation model to which zonally uniform sea surface temperature (SST) is prescribed globally as the lower boundary condition, an assessment is made of the potential influence of the frontal SST gradient upon the formation of a storm track and an eddy-driven midlatitude polar front jet (PFJ), and on its robustness against changes in the intensity of a subtropical jet (STJ). In experiments with the frontal midlatitude SST gradient as that observed in the southwestern Indian Ocean, transient eddy activity in each of the winter and summer hemispheres is organized into a deep storm track along the SST front with an enhanced low-level baroclinic growth of eddies. In the winter hemisphere, another storm track forms just below the intense STJ core, but it is confined to the upper troposphere with no significant baroclinic eddy growth underneath. The near-surface westerlies are strongest near the midlatitude SST front as observed, consistent with westerly momentum transport associated with baroclinic eddy growth. The sharp poleward decline in the surface sensible heat flux across the SST frontal zone sustains strong near-surface baroclinicity against the relaxing effect by vigorous poleward eddy heat transport. Elimination of the midlatitude frontal SST gradient yields marked decreases in the activity of eddies and their transport of angular momentum into midlatitudes, in association with equatorward shifts of the PFJ-associated low-level westerlies and a subtropical high pressure belt, especially in the summer hemisphere. These impacts of the midlatitude frontal SST gradient are found to be robust against modest changes in the STJ intensity as observed in its interannual variability, suggesting the potential importance of midlatitude atmosphere–ocean interaction in shaping the tropospheric general circulation.

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James F. Booth, Lu Anne Thompson, Jérôme Patoux, Kathryn A. Kelly, and Suzanne Dickinson

Abstract

Storm-track analysis is applied to the meridional winds at 10 m and 850 hPa for the winters of 1999–2006. The analysis is focused on the North Atlantic and North Pacific Ocean basins and the Southern Ocean spanning the region south of the Indian Ocean. The spatial patterns that emerge from the analysis of the 850-hPa winds are the typical free-tropospheric storm tracks. The spatial patterns that emerge from the analysis of the surface winds differ from the free-tropospheric storm tracks. The spatial differences between the surface and free-tropospheric storm tracks can be explained by the influence of the spatial variability in the instability of the atmospheric boundary layer. Strongly unstable boundary layers allow greater downward mixing of free-tropospheric momentum (momentum mixing), and this may be the cause of the stronger surface storm tracks in regions with greater instability in the time mean. Principal component analysis suggests that the basin-scale variability that is reflected in the storm-track signature is the same for the free-tropospheric and surface winds. Separating the data based on the boundary layer stability shows that the surface storm track has a local maximum in the region of maximum instability, even when there is no local maximum in the free-tropospheric storm track above the region. The spatial patterns of the surface storm tracks suggest a positive feedback for storm development as follows: 1) an existing storm generates strong free-tropospheric wind variability, 2) the momentum mixing of the unstable boundary layers acts to increase the ocean–atmosphere energy fluxes, and 3) the fluxes precondition the lower atmosphere for subsequent storm development.

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Masami Nonaka, Hisashi Nakamura, Bunmei Taguchi, Nobumasa Komori, Akira Kuwano-Yoshida, and Koutarou Takaya

Abstract

An integration of a high-resolution coupled general circulation model whose ocean component is eddy permitting and thus able to reproduce a sharp gradient in sea surface temperature (SST) is analyzed to investigate air–sea heat exchanges characteristic of the midlatitude oceanic frontal zone. The focus of this paper is placed on a prominent SST front in the south Indian Ocean, which is collocated with the core of the Southern Hemisphere storm track. Time-mean distribution of sensible heat flux is characterized by a distinct cross-frontal contrast. It is upward and downward on the warmer and cooler flanks, respectively, of the SST front, acting to maintain the sharp gradient of surface air temperature (SAT) that is important for preconditioning the environment for the recurrent development of storms and thereby anchoring the storm track. Induced by cross-frontal advection of cold (warm) air associated with migratory atmospheric disturbances, the surface flux is highly variable with intermittent enhancement of the upward (downward) flux predominantly on the warmer (cooler) flank of the front. Indeed, several intermittent events of cold (warm) air advection, whose total duration accounts for only 21% (19%) of the entire analysis period, contribute to as much as 60% (44%) of the total amount of sensible heat flux during the analysis period on the warmer (cooler) flank. This antisymmetric behavior yields the sharp cross-frontal gradient in the time-mean flux. Since the flux intensity is strongly influenced by local magnitude of the SST–SAT difference that tends to increase with the SST gradient, the concentration of the flux variance to the frontal zone and cross-frontal contrasts in the mean and skewness of the flux all become stronger during the spinup of the SST front. Synoptically, the enhanced sensible heat flux near the SST front can restore SAT toward the underlying SST effectively with a time scale of a day, to maintain a frontal SAT gradient against the relaxing effect of atmospheric disturbances. The restoration effect of the differential surface heating at the SST front, augmented by the surface latent heating concentrated on the warm side of the front, represents a key process through which the atmospheric baroclinicity and ultimately the storm track are linked to the underlying ocean.

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Bunmei Taguchi, Hisashi Nakamura, Masami Nonaka, and Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

Influences of oceanic fronts in the Kuroshio and Oyashio Extension (KOE) region on the overlying atmosphere are investigated by comparing a pair of atmospheric regional model hindcast experiments for the 2003/04 cold season, one with the observed finescale frontal structures in sea surface temperature (SST) prescribed at the model lower boundary and the other with an artificially smoothed SST distribution. The comparison reveals the locally enhanced meridional gradient of turbulent fluxes of heat and moisture and surface air temperature (SAT) across the oceanic frontal zone, which favors the storm-track development both in winter and spring. Distinct seasonal dependency is found, however, in how dominantly the storm-track activity influences the time-mean distribution of the heat and moisture supply from the ocean.

In spring the mean surface sensible heat flux (SHF) is upward (downward) on the warmer (cooler) side of the subarctic SST front. This sharp cross-frontal contrast is a manifestation of intermittent heat release (cooling) induced by cool northerlies (warm southerlies) on the warmer (cooler) side of the front in association with migratory cyclones and anticyclones. The oceanic frontal zone is thus marked as both the largest variability in SHF and the cross-frontal sign reversal of the SHF skewness. The cross-frontal SHF contrasts in air–sea heat exchanges counteract poleward heat transport by those atmospheric eddies, to restore the sharp meridional gradient of SAT effectively for the recurrent development of atmospheric disturbances. Lacking this oceanic baroclinic adjustment associated with the SST front, the experiment with the smoothed SST distribution underestimates storm-track activity in the KOE region.

In winter the prevailing cold, dry continental airflow associated with the Asian winter monsoon induces a large amount of heat and moisture release even from the cooler ocean to the north of the frontal zone. The persistent advective effects of the monsoonal wind weaken the SAT gradient and smear out the sign reversal of the SHF skewness, leading to weaker influences of the oceanic fronts on the atmosphere in winter than in spring.

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Terrence M. Joyce, Young-Oh Kwon, and Lisan Yu

Abstract

Coherent, large-scale shifts in the paths of the Gulf Stream (GS) and the Kuroshio Extension (KE) occur on interannual to decadal time scales. Attention has usually been drawn to causes for these shifts in the overlying atmosphere, with some built-in delay of up to a few years resulting from propagation of wind-forced variability within the ocean. However, these shifts in the latitudes of separated western boundary currents can cause substantial changes in SST, which may influence the synoptic atmospheric variability with little or no time delay. Various measures of wintertime atmospheric variability in the synoptic band (2–8 days) are examined using a relatively new dataset for air–sea exchange [Objectively Analyzed Air–Sea Fluxes (OAFlux)] and subsurface temperature indices of the Gulf Stream and Kuroshio path that are insulated from direct air–sea exchange, and therefore are preferable to SST. Significant changes are found in the atmospheric variability following changes in the paths of these currents, sometimes in a local fashion such as meridional shifts in measures of local storm tracks, and sometimes in nonlocal, broad regions coincident with and downstream of the oceanic forcing. Differences between the North Pacific (KE) and North Atlantic (GS) may be partly related to the more zonal orientation of the KE and the stronger SST signals of the GS, but could also be due to differences in mean storm-track characteristics over the North Pacific and North Atlantic.

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