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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
R. Justin Small
,
Frank O. Bryan
,
Stuart P. Bishop
, and
Robert A. Tomas

Abstract

A traditional view is that the ocean outside of the tropics responds passively to atmosphere forcing, which implies that air–sea heat fluxes are mainly driven by atmosphere variability. This paper tests this viewpoint using state-of-the-art air–sea turbulent heat flux observational analyses and a climate model run at different resolutions. It is found that in midlatitude ocean frontal zones the variability of air–sea heat fluxes is not predominantly driven by the atmosphere variations but instead is forced by sea surface temperature (SST) variations arising from intrinsic oceanic variability. Meanwhile in most of the tropics and subtropics wind is the dominant driver of heat flux variability, and atmosphere humidity is mainly important in higher latitudes. The predominance of ocean forcing of heat fluxes found in frontal regions occurs on scales of around 700 km or less. Spatially smoothing the data to larger scales results in the traditional atmosphere-driving case, while filtering to retain only small scales of 5° or less leads to ocean forcing of heat fluxes over most of the globe. All observational analyses examined (1° OAFlux; 0.25° J-OFURO3; 0.25° SeaFlux) show this general behavior. A standard resolution (1°) climate model fails to reproduce the midlatitude, small-scale ocean forcing of heat flux: refining the ocean grid to resolve eddies (0.1°) gives a more realistic representation of ocean forcing but the variability of both SST and of heat flux is too high compared to observational analyses.

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

ABSTRACT

Large-scale oceanic fronts, such as in western boundary currents, have been shown to play an important role in the dynamics of atmospheric storm tracks. Little is known about the influence of mesoscale oceanic eddies on the free troposphere, although their imprint on the atmospheric boundary layer is well documented. The present study investigates the response of the tropospheric storm track to the presence of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies associated with an eddying ocean. Idealized experiments are carried out in a configuration of a zonally reentrant channel representing the midlatitudes. The SST field is composed of a large-scale zonally symmetric front to which are added mesoscale eddies localized close to the front. Numerical simulations show a robust signal of a poleward shift of the storm track and of the tropospheric eddy-driven jet when oceanic eddies are taken into account. This is accompanied by more intense air–sea fluxes and convective heating above oceanic eddies. Also, a mean heating of the troposphere occurs poleward of the oceanic eddying region, within the storm track. A heat budget analysis shows that it is caused by a stronger diabatic heating within storms associated with more water advected poleward. This additional heating affects the baroclinicity of the flow, which pushes the jet and the storm track poleward.

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Ayumu Miyamoto
,
Hisashi Nakamura
, and
Takafumi Miyasaka

Abstract

The south Indian Ocean is characterized by enhanced midlatitude storm-track activity around a prominent sea surface temperature (SST) front and unique seasonality of the surface subtropical Mascarene high. The present study investigates the climatological distribution of low-cloud fraction (LCF) and its seasonality by using satellite data, in order to elucidate the role of the storm-track activity and subtropical high. On the equatorward flank of the SST front, summertime LCF is locally maximized despite small estimated inversion strength (EIS) and high SST. This is attributable to locally augmented sensible heat flux (SHF) from the ocean under the enhanced storm-track activity, which gives rise to strong instantaneous wind speed while acting to relax the meridional gradient of surface air temperature. In the subtropics, summertime LCF is maximized off the west coast of Australia, while wintertime LCF is distributed more zonally across the basin unlike in other subtropical ocean basins. Although its zonally extended distribution is correspondent with that of LCF, EIS alone cannot explain the wintertime LCF enhancement, which precedes the EIS maximum under continuous lowering of SST and enhanced SHF in winter. Basinwide cold advection associated with the wintertime westward shift of the subtropical high contributes to the enhancement of SHF, especially around 15°–25°S, while seasonally enhanced storm-track activity augments SHF around 30°S. The analysis highlights the significance of large-scale controls, particularly through SHF, on the seasonality of the climatological LCF distribution over the south Indian Ocean, which reflect the seasonality of the Mascarene high and storm-track activity.

Open access
Satoru Okajima
,
Hisashi Nakamura
,
Kazuaki Nishii
,
Takafumi Miyasaka
,
Akira Kuwano-Yoshida
,
Bunmei Taguchi
,
Masato Mori
, and
Yu Kosaka

Abstract

Mechanisms for the maintenance of a large-scale wintertime atmospheric response to warm sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies associated with decadal-scale poleward displacement of the North Pacific subarctic frontal zone (SAFZ) are investigated through the following two ensemble experiments with an atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM): one with climatological-mean SST and the other with positive SST anomalies along the SAFZ prescribed on top of the climatological-mean SST. As actually observed, the simulated January ensemble response over the North Pacific is anticyclonic throughout the depth of the troposphere, although its amplitude is smaller. This response is maintained through energy conversion from the ensemble climatological-mean circulation realized under the climatological SST as well as feedback from anomalous transient eddy activity, suggesting that the response may have characteristics as a preferred mode of variability (or “dynamical mode”). Conversions of both available potential energy and kinetic energy from the climatological-mean state are important for the observed anomaly, while the latter is less pronounced for the model response. Net transient feedback forcing is also important for both the observed anomaly and simulated response. These results imply that a moderate-resolution (~1°) AGCM may be able to simulate a basin-scale atmospheric response to the SAFZ SST anomaly through synoptic- and basin-scale dynamical processes. Weaker PNA-like internal variability in the model may lead to the weaker response, suggesting that misrepresentation of intrinsic atmospheric variability can affect the model response to the SST anomaly.

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Hyodae Seo
,
Young-Oh Kwon
,
Terrence M. Joyce
, and
Caroline C. Ummenhofer

Abstract

The North Atlantic atmospheric circulation response to the meridional shifts of the Gulf Stream (GS) path is examined using a large ensemble of high-resolution hemispheric-scale Weather Research and Forecasting Model simulations. The model is forced with a broad range of wintertime sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies derived from a lag regression on a GS index. The primary result of the model experiments, supported in part by an independent analysis of a reanalysis dataset, is that the large-scale quasi-steady North Atlantic circulation response is remarkably nonlinear about the sign and amplitude of the SST anomaly chosen over a wide range of GS shift scenarios. The nonlinear response prevails over the weak linear response and resembles the negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the leading intrinsic mode of variability in the model and the observations. Further analysis of the associated dynamics reveals that the nonlinear responses are accompanied by the shift of the North Atlantic eddy-driven jet, which is reinforced, with nearly equal importance, by the high-frequency transient eddy feedback and the low-frequency wave-breaking events. Additional sensitivity simulations confirm that the nonlinearity of the circulation response is a robust feature found over the broad parameter space encompassing not only the varied SST but also the absence/presence of tropical influence, the varying lateral boundary conditions, and the initialization scheme. The result highlights the fundamental importance of the intrinsically nonlinear transient eddy dynamics and the eddy–mean flow interactions in generating the nonlinear downstream response to the meridional shifts in the Gulf Stream.

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Hyodae Seo

Abstract

During the southwest monsoons, the Arabian Sea (AS) develops highly energetic mesoscale variability associated with the Somali Current (SC), Great Whirl (GW), and cold filaments (CF). The resultant high-amplitude anomalies and gradients of sea surface temperature (SST) and surface currents modify the wind stress, triggering the so-called mesoscale coupled feedbacks. This study uses a high-resolution regional coupled model with a novel coupling procedure that separates spatial scales of the air–sea coupling to show that SST and surface currents are coupled to the atmosphere at distinct spatial scales, exerting distinct dynamic influences. The effect of mesoscale SST–wind interaction is manifested most strongly in wind work and Ekman pumping over the GW, primarily affecting the position of GW and the separation latitude of the SC. If this effect is suppressed, enhanced wind work and a weakened Ekman pumping dipole cause the GW to extend northeastward, delaying the SC separation by 1°. Current–wind interaction, in contrast, is related to the amount of wind energy input. When it is suppressed, especially as a result of background-scale currents, depth-integrated kinetic energy, both the mean and eddy, is significantly enhanced. Ekman pumping velocity over the GW is overly negative because of a lack of vorticity that offsets the wind stress curl, further invigorating the GW. Moreover, significant changes in time-mean SST and evaporation are generated in response to the current–wind interaction, accompanied by a noticeable southward shift in the Findlater Jet. The significant increase in moisture transport in the central AS implies that air–sea interaction mediated by the surface current is a potentially important process for simulation and prediction of the monsoon rainfall.

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Bunmei Taguchi
,
Niklas Schneider
,
Masami Nonaka
, and
Hideharu Sasaki

Abstract

Generation and propagation processes of upper-ocean heat content (OHC) in the North Pacific are investigated using oceanic subsurface observations and an eddy-resolving ocean general circulation model hindcast simulation. OHC anomalies are decomposed into physically distinct dynamical components (OHC ρ ) due to temperature anomalies that are associated with density anomalies and spiciness components (OHC χ ) due to temperature anomalies that are density compensating with salinity. Analysis of the observational and model data consistently shows that both dynamical and spiciness components contribute to interannual–decadal OHC variability, with the former (latter) component dominating in the subtropical (subpolar) North Pacific. OHC ρ variability represents heaving of thermocline, propagates westward, and intensifies along the Kuroshio Extension, consistent with jet-trapped Rossby waves, while OHC χ variability propagates eastward along the subarctic frontal zone, suggesting advection by mean eastward currents. OHC χ variability tightly corresponds in space to horizontal mean spiciness gradients. Meanwhile, area-averaged OHC χ anomalies in the western subarctic frontal zone closely correspond in time to meridional shifts of the subarctic frontal zone. Regression coefficient of the OHC χ time series on the frontal displacement anomalies quantitatively agree with the area-averaged mean spiciness gradient in the region, and suggest that OHC χ is generated via frontal variability in the subarctic frontal zone.

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James F. Booth
,
Young-Oh Kwon
,
Stanley Ko
,
R. Justin Small
, and
Rym Msadek

Abstract

To improve the understanding of storm tracks and western boundary current (WBC) interactions, surface storm tracks in 12 CMIP5 models are examined against ERA-Interim. All models capture an equatorward displacement toward the WBCs in the locations of the surface storm tracks’ maxima relative to those at 850 hPa. An estimated storm-track metric is developed to analyze the location of the surface storm track. It shows that the equatorward shift is influenced by both the lower-tropospheric instability and the baroclinicity. Basin-scale spatial correlations between models and ERA-Interim for the storm tracks, near-surface stability, SST gradient, and baroclinicity are calculated to test the ability of the GCMs’ match reanalysis. An intermodel comparison of the spatial correlations suggests that differences (relative to ERA-Interim) in the position of the storm track aloft have the strongest influence on differences in the surface storm-track position. However, in the North Atlantic, biases in the surface storm track north of the Gulf Stream are related to biases in the SST. An analysis of the strength of the storm tracks shows that most models generate a weaker storm track at the surface than 850 hPa, consistent with observations, although some outliers are found. A linear relationship exists among the models between storm-track amplitudes at 500 and 850 hPa, but not between 850 hPa and the surface. In total, the work reveals a dual role in forcing the surface storm track from aloft and from the ocean surface in CMIP5 models, with the atmosphere having the larger relative influence.

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Xiaohui Ma
,
Ping Chang
,
R. Saravanan
,
Raffaele Montuoro
,
Hisashi Nakamura
,
Dexing Wu
,
Xiaopei Lin
, and
Lixin Wu

Abstract

Local and remote atmospheric responses to mesoscale SST anomalies associated with the oceanic front and eddies in the Kuroshio Extension region (KER) are studied using high- (27 km) and low-resolution (162 km) regional climate model simulations in the North Pacific. In the high-resolution simulations, removal of mesoscale SST anomalies in the KER leads to not only a local reduction in cyclogenesis but also a remote large-scale equivalent barotropic response with a southward shift of the downstream storm track and jet stream in the eastern North Pacific. In the low-resolution simulations, no such significant remote response is found when mesoscale SST anomalies are removed. The difference between the high- and low-resolution model simulated atmospheric responses is attributed to the effect of mesoscale SST variability on cyclogenesis through moist baroclinic instability. It is only when the model has sufficient resolution to resolve small-scale diabatic heating that the full effect of mesoscale SST forcing on the storm track can be correctly simulated.

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