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Ryusuke Masunaga and Niklas Schneider

Abstract

Satellite observations have revealed that mesoscale sea surface temperature (SST) perturbations can exert distinct influence on sea surface wind by modifying the overlying atmospheric boundary layer. Recently, spectral transfer functions have been shown to be useful to elucidate the wind response features. Spectral transfer functions can represent spatially lagged responses, their horizontal scale dependence, and background wind speed dependence. By adopting the transfer function analysis, the present study explores seasonality and regional differences in the wind response over the major western boundary current regions. Transfer functions estimated from satellite observations are found to be largely consistent among seasons and regions, suggesting that the underlying dominant dynamics are ubiquitous. Nevertheless, the wind response exhibits statistically significant seasonal and regional differences depending on background wind speed. When background wind is stronger (weaker) than 8.5 m s−1, the wind response is stronger (weaker) in winter than in summer. The Agulhas Retroflection region exhibits stronger wind response typically by 30% than the Gulf Stream and Kuroshio Extension regions. Although observed wind distributions are reasonably reconstructed from the transfer functions and observed SST, surface wind convergence zones along the Gulf Stream and Kuroshio Extension are underrepresented. The state-of-the-art atmospheric reanalysis and regional model represent well the structure of the transfer functions in the wavenumber space. The amplitude is, however, underestimated by typically 30%. The transfer function analysis can be adapted to many other atmospheric responses besides sea surface wind, and thus provide new insights into the climatic role of the mesoscale air–sea coupling.

Open access
Ayumu Miyamoto, Hisashi Nakamura, Takafumi Miyasaka, Yu Kosaka, Bunmei Taguchi, and Kazuaki Nishii

Abstract

Climatologically the surface Mascarene high over the subtropical south Indian Ocean (SIO) shifts westward toward austral winter, and its strength as a planetary-wave component maximizes in late austral winter, unlike its counterpart over other subtropical oceans. The present study investigates the maintenance mechanisms for the wintertime Mascarene high with a linear atmospheric dynamical model (LBM) and an atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM). The LBM experiments reveal the importance of cross-equatorial tropical influences. Deep convection associated with the Asian summer monsoon acts not only to shift the Mascarene high westward as its direct influence but also to enhance midtropospheric subsidence and equatorward surface winds over the central and western portions of the subtropical SIO. The associated near-surface cold advection and subsidence promote (suppress) the formation of low-level (deep convective) clouds. The resultant enhanced radiative cooling and reduced deep condensation heating both reinforce the equatorward portion of the surface high. The LBM experiments also reveal that seasonally enhanced storm-track activity over the SIO is important for maintaining the poleward portion of the Mascarene high through eddy heat and vorticity fluxes. The AGCM experiments demonstrate that the Agulhas Current system and the associated sea surface temperature (SST) front reinforce the high by energizing the storm-track activity. The present study thus proposes that both the Asian summer monsoon and the enhanced storm-track activity maintained by the Agulhas SST front externally modulate the positively coupled system between the wintertime Mascarene high and low-level clouds to realize its unique seasonality.

Open access
Akira Kuwano-Yoshida, Satoru Okajima, and Hisashi Nakamura

Abstract

Long-term changes in the activity of explosively developing “bomb” cyclones over the wintertime North Pacific are investigated by using a particular version of a global atmospheric reanalysis dataset into which only conventional observations have been assimilated. Bomb cyclones in January are found to increase rapidly around 1987 in the midlatitude central North Pacific. Some of the increased bomb cyclones formed over the East China Sea and then moved along the southern coast of Japan before developing explosively in the central North Pacific. The enhanced cyclone activity is found to be concomitant with rapid warming and moistening over the subtropical western Pacific and the South and East China Seas under the weakened monsoonal northerlies, leading to the enhancement of the lower-tropospheric Eady growth rate and equivalent potential temperature gradient, setting a condition favorable for cyclone formation in the area upstream of the North Pacific storm track. Along the storm track, poleward moisture transport in the warm sector of a cyclone and associated precipitation along the warm and cold fronts tended to increase and thereby enhance its explosive development. After the transition around 1987, a bomb cyclone has become more likely to develop without a strong upper-level cyclonic vortex propagating from Eurasia than in the earlier period. The increased bomb cyclone activity in January is found to contribute to the diminished midwinter minimum of the North Pacific storm track activity after the mid-1980s.

Open access
Hyodae Seo, Hajoon Song, Larry W. O’Neill, Matthew R. Mazloff, and Bruce D. Cornuelle

Abstract

This study examines the role of the relative wind (RW) effect (wind relative to ocean current) in the regional ocean circulation and extratropical storm track in the south Indian Ocean. Comparison of two high-resolution regional coupled model simulations with and without the RW effect reveals that the most conspicuous ocean circulation response is the significant weakening of the overly energetic anticyclonic standing eddy off Port Elizabeth, South Africa, a biased feature ascribed to upstream retroflection of the Agulhas Current (AC). This opens a pathway through which the AC transports the warm and salty water mass from the subtropics, yielding marked increases in sea surface temperature (SST), upward turbulent heat flux (THF), and meridional SST gradient in the Agulhas retroflection region. These thermodynamic and dynamic changes are accompanied by the robust strengthening of the local low-tropospheric baroclinicity and the baroclinic wave activity in the atmosphere. Examination of the composite life cycle of synoptic-scale storms subjected to the high-THF events indicates a robust strengthening of the extratropical storms far downstream. Energetics calculations for the atmosphere suggest that the baroclinic energy conversion from the basic flow is the chief source of increased eddy available potential energy, which is subsequently converted to eddy kinetic energy, providing for the growth of transient baroclinic waves. Overall, the results suggest that the mechanical and thermal air–sea interactions are inherently and inextricably linked together to substantially influence the extratropical storm tracks in the south Indian Ocean.

Restricted access
Morio Nakayama, Hisashi Nakamura, and Fumiaki Ogawa

Abstract

As a major mode of annular variability in the Southern Hemisphere, the baroclinic annular mode (BAM) represents the pulsing of extratropical eddy activity. Focusing mainly on subweekly disturbances, this study assesses the impacts of a midlatitude oceanic frontal zone on the BAM and its dynamics through a set of “aquaplanet” atmospheric general circulation model experiments with zonally uniform sea surface temperature (SST) profiles prescribed. Though idealized, one experiment with realistic frontal SST gradient reasonably well reproduces observed BAM-associated anomalies as a manifestation of a typical life cycle of migratory baroclinic disturbances. Qualitatively, these BAM features are also simulated in the other experiment where the frontal SST gradient is removed. However, the BAM-associated variability weakens markedly and shifts equatorward, in association with the corresponding modifications in the climatological-mean storm track activity. The midlatitude oceanic frontal zone amplifies and anchors the BAM variability by restoring near-surface baroclinicity through anomalous sensible heat supply from the ocean and moisture supply to cyclones, although the BAM is essentially a manifestation of atmospheric internal dynamics. Those experiments and observations further indicate that the BAM modulates momentum flux associated with transient disturbances to induce a modest but robust meridional shift of the polar-front jet, suggesting that the BAM can help maintain the southern annular mode. They also indicate that the quasi-periodic behavior of the BAM is likely to reflect internal dynamics in which atmospheric disturbances on both subweekly and longer time scales are involved.

Open access
Yoshi N. Sasaki and Chisato Umeda

Abstract

It has been reported that the sea surface temperature (SST) trend of the East China Sea during the twentieth century was a couple of times larger than the global mean SST trend. However, the detailed spatial structure of the SST trend in the East China Sea and its mechanism have not been understood. The present study examines the SST trend in the East China Sea from 1901 to 2010 using observational data and a Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) with an eddy-resolving horizontal resolution. A comparison among two observational datasets and the model output reveals that enhanced SST warming occurred along the Kuroshio and along the coast of China over the continental shelf. In both regions, the SST trends were the largest in winter. The heat budget analysis using the model output indicates that the upper-layer temperature rises in both regions were induced by the trend of ocean advection, which was balanced in relation to the increase of surface net heat release. In addition, the rapid SST warming along the Kuroshio was induced by the acceleration of the Kuroshio. Sensitivity experiments revealed that this acceleration was likely caused by the negative wind stress curl anomalies over the North Pacific. In contrast, the enhanced SST warming along the China coast resulted from the ocean circulation change over the continental shelf by local atmospheric forcing.

Open access
R. Justin Small, Frank O. Bryan, Stuart P. Bishop, Sarah Larson, and Robert A. Tomas

Abstract

A key question in climate modeling is to what extent sea surface temperature and upper-ocean heat content are driven passively by air–sea heat fluxes, as opposed to forcing by ocean dynamics. This paper investigates the question using a climate model at different resolutions, and observations, for monthly variability. At the grid scale in a high-resolution climate model with resolved mesoscale ocean eddies, ocean dynamics (i.e., ocean heat flux convergence) dominates upper 50 m heat content variability over most of the globe. For deeper depths of integration to 400 m, the heat content variability at the grid scale is almost totally controlled by ocean heat flux convergence. However, a strong dependence on spatial scale is found—for the upper 50 m of ocean, after smoothing the data to around 7°, air–sea heat fluxes, augmented by Ekman heat transports, dominate. For deeper depths of integration to 400 m, the transition scale becomes larger and is above 10° in western boundary currents. Comparison of climate model results with observations show that the small-scale influence of ocean intrinsic variability is well captured by the high-resolution model but is missing from a comparable model with parameterized ocean-eddy effects. In the deep tropics, ocean dynamics dominates in all cases and all scales. In the subtropical gyres at large scales, air–sea heat fluxes play the biggest role. In the midlatitudes, at large scales >10°, atmosphere-driven air–sea heat fluxes and Ekman heat transport variability are the dominant processes except in the western boundary currents for the 400 m heat content.

Free access
Ryusuke Masunaga, Hisashi Nakamura, Bunmei Taguchi, and Takafumi Miyasaka

Abstract

High-resolution satellite observations and numerical simulations have revealed that climatological-mean surface wind convergence and precipitation are enhanced locally around the midlatitude warm western boundary currents (WBCs) with divergence slightly to their poleward side. While steep sea surface temperature (SST) fronts along the WBCs have been believed to play an important role in shaping those frontal-scale atmospheric structures, the mechanisms and processes involved are still under debate. The present study explores specific daily scale atmospheric processes that are essential for shaping the frontal-scale atmospheric structure around the Kuroshio Extension (KE) in winter, taking advantage of a new product of global atmospheric reanalysis. Cluster analysis and case studies reveal that a zonally extending narrow band of surface wind convergence frequently emerges along the KE, which is typically observed under the surface northerlies after the passage of a developed synoptic-scale cyclone. Unlike its counterpart around the cyclone center and associated cold front, the surface convergence tends to be in moderate strength and more persistent, contributing dominantly to the distinct time-mean convergence/divergence contrast across the SST front. Accompanying ascent and convective precipitation, the band of convergence is a manifestation of a weak stationary atmospheric front anchored along the SST front or generation of a weak meso-α-scale cyclone. By reinforcing the ascent and convergence, latent heating through convective processes induced by surface convergence plays an important role in shaping the frontal-scale atmospheric structure around the KE.

Open access
Fumiaki Ogawa and Thomas Spengler

Abstract

While the climatological-mean sensible and latent heat fluxes are remarkably well described using climatological-mean fields in the bulk flux formulas, this study shows that a significant fraction of the climatological-mean wind speed in the midlatitudes is associated with wind variations on synoptic time scales. Hence, the prevailing wind direction associated with the most intense air–sea heat exchange can differ from the mean wind direction. To pinpoint these striking differences between the climatological and synoptic viewpoint, this study presents a global climatology of the prevailing surface wind direction during air–sea heat exchanges calculated for instantaneous and time-averaged reanalysis data. The interpretation of the fluxes in the lower latitudes is basically unaffected by the different time averages, highlighting the time-mean nature of the circulation in the lower latitudes. In the midlatitudes, however, the prevailing wind direction features a significant equatorward component for subweekly time averages and reverts to pure westerlies for longer time averages. These findings pinpoint the necessity to consider subweekly time scales, in particular along the midlatitude SST fronts, to describe the air–sea heat exchange in a physically consistent way.

Open access
A. Foussard, G. Lapeyre, and R. Plougonven

Abstract

The response of the atmospheric boundary layer to mesoscale sea surface temperature (SST) is often characterized by a link between wind stress divergence and downwind SST gradients. In this study, an idealized simulation representative of a storm track above a prescribed stationary SST field is examined in order to determine in which background wind conditions that relationship occurs. The SST field is composed of a midlatitude large-scale frontal zone and mesoscale SST anomalies. It is shown that the divergence of the surface wind can correlate either with the Laplacian of the atmospheric boundary layer temperature or with the downwind SST gradient. The first case corresponds to background situations of weak winds or of unstable boundary layers, and the response is in agreement with an Ekman balance adjustment in the boundary layer. The second case corresponds to background situations of stable boundary layers, and the response is in agreement with downward mixing of momentum. Concerning the divergence of the wind stress, it generally resembles downwind SST gradients for stable and unstable boundary layers, in agreement with past studies. For weak winds, a correlation with the temperature Laplacian is, however, found to some extent. In conclusion, our study reveals the importance of the large-scale wind conditions in modulating the surface atmospheric response with different responses in the divergences of surface wind and wind stress.

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