Climate Implications of Frontal Scale Air–Sea Interaction

Description:

Strong air–sea interaction is associated with ocean fronts and mesoscale eddies, in particular near the western boundary currents of each ocean basin. The dynamical and thermodynamical processes of the air–sea interaction associated with these mesoscale features exhibit characteristics that are distinct from the basin-scale air–sea interaction. For instance, the atmospheric boundary layer properties tend to clearly reflect the oceanic influence associated with these mesoscale features, e.g. enhanced low-level wind over warm mesoscale ocean features, while the atmospheric forcing on the ocean is the dominant signal in the basin-scale.

As well as this response in the atmospheric boundary layer, a deep response to mesoscale sea-surface temperature has been detected in a few select geographical regions, mainly the western boundary currents. A key question is whether and to what extent these boundary layer or deeper local responses influence larger-scale and remote atmospheric circulation, a coupled variability.

These topics and questions were discussed at a workshop on frontal-scale air–sea interaction held in August 2013 in Boulder. This AMS special collection of papers presents the state of the research arising from the workshop and related international projects.

Collection organizers:
R. Justin Small, Climate and Global Dynamics Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Mike Alexander and Matt Newman, NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory
Dima Smirnov, Dewberry Consultants
Claude Frankignoul, Laboratory of Oceanography and Climate (LOCEAN)/Institute Pierre Simon Laplace, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France
Young-Oh Kwon, Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Hisashi Nakamura, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Tokyo; Research Institute for Global Change, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology

Climate Implications of Frontal Scale Air–Sea Interaction

Miku Amano
,
Yoshihiro Tachibana
, and
Yuta Ando

Abstract

Does a warming world, where extremely hot summers are becoming more common, mean that cold summers will never again occur? It is crucial to know whether extremely cold summers are still possible, as such knowledge will significantly impact decisions regarding the further adaptation of crops to cold summers. Japan, which has suffered from many extremely cold summers, has managed past agricultural disruptions with emergency rice imports. In this paper, we show that a climate regime shift associated with the positive phase shift of the summer Arctic Oscillation occurred in 2010 in northeast Eurasia, making the occurrence of extremely cold summers highly unlikely as long as this new regime persists. In fact, Japan has not experienced a cold summer since 2010, while extremely hot summers have been frequent. Since 2010, a double-jet structure with subtropical and polar jets has strengthened, and the polar jet has meandered farther north of Japan, resulting in an upper-tropospheric anticyclone. This anticyclone, which extends downward and tilts southward, reaches southern Japan and prevents cold advection of oceanic air over the cold Oyashio. The Okhotsk high, known as the leading cause of cold summers, has occurred frequently in recent years; however, cold summers have not occurred due to the tilting anticyclone. The recent warming of the Oyashio weakens cold advection. The Pacific–Japan pattern, known as a remote tropical influence, has been weakened. A better understanding of the regime shift will help us understand the tilting anticyclone and the associated extreme summers in northeast Eurasia.

Significance Statement

Extremely cold summers are among the most destructive natural disasters, both socioeconomically and agriculturally. Historically, food shortages due to cold summers have triggered wars. This paper proposes that a hemispheric-scale climate regime shift occurred in or around 2010. This regime shift has included warmings in the North Pacific and East Eurasian land surface temperatures. The regime shift is accompanied by the positive shift of the Arctic Oscillation (AO), a jet meander, and an upper-tropospheric anticyclone, making eastern Eurasia extremely hot. Our results imply that extremely cold summers are unlikely to occur in eastern Eurasia so long as this regime persists. Moving forward, it is important that the link between this regime shift and global warming be explored.

Open access
Zhihui Che
,
Lin Mu
, and
Linhao Zhong

Abstract

A new wintertime surface air temperature (SAT) pattern, called the Asia–Kuroshio and Oyashio Extension–North America (AKNA) pattern, is identified over the pan–North Pacific region (85°E–85°W, 25°–65°N) based on NCEP reanalysis data. The AKNA pattern is likely to influence the climate of the extratropical area of Asia and North America via two SAT dipoles and has a significant impact on the wintertime extremely cold weather along the eastern coastal regions of East Asia. Simulations using an atmospheric general circulation model indicate that wintertime sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTa) in the Kuroshio and Oyashio Extension (KOE) region can force an equivalent barotropic atmospheric ridge downstream and weaken the Siberian high and Alaska atmospheric ridge, resulting in the formation of the AKNA pattern. This circulation pattern tends to intensify the midlatitude (40°–60°N) westerlies over East Asia, which inhibits the southward invasion of the cold air into southern East Asia. Further diagnostic analysis indicates that the KOE SSTa can modulate the variation of storm track and westerlies by affecting baroclinic instability and eddy–mean flow interaction. Moreover, the KOE SSTa can provide a favorable environment for the development of the local atmospheric ascending motion and secondary circulation across the KOE SSTa, thereby affecting variability of the free atmosphere.

Significance Statement

This study aims to build a connection between the wintertime extratropical climate and the variation of the Kuroshio and Oyashio Extension. This work isolated a new wintertime surface air temperature (SAT) pattern over mid–high-latitude Asia and North America, which explains a considerable proportion of cold extremes over the eastern regions of East Asia. The reanalysis data and model simulations indicate that the temporal variability of the SAT pattern is influenced by the change of sea surface temperature in the Kuroshio and Oyashio Extension. These findings emphasize the important role of midlatitude air–sea interaction in the modulation of the mid–high-latitude climate.

Restricted access
R. J. Small
,
V. Rousseau
,
R. Parfitt
,
L. Laurindo
,
L. O’Neill
,
R. Masunaga
,
N. Schneider
, and
P. Chang

Abstract

High-resolution observations have demonstrated the presence of strong time-mean near-surface wind convergence (NSWC) anchored across oceanic frontal zones, such as the western boundary currents. Initial analyses appeared to show a close association between this time-mean NSWC and time-mean properties of the underlying sea surface temperature (SST), such as the gradients and second derivatives (e.g., Laplacian of SST), acting through pressure-adjustment and vertical-mixing mechanisms. However, a series of recent papers have revealed the instantaneous NSWC to be dominated by atmospheric fronts and have suggested the importance of air–sea processes occurring instead on shorter, synoptic time scales. In this paper, using the ERA5 reanalysis dataset in the Gulf Stream region, we aim to reconcile these viewpoints by investigating the spatial and temporal dependence of NSWC and its relationship to SST. It is revealed that while atmospheric frontal processes govern the day-to-day variability of NSWC, the relatively weak but persistent pressure-adjustment and vertical-mixing mechanisms provide lower-frequency modulations in conditions both with and without atmospheric fronts. In addition to their temporal characteristics, each mechanism is shown through spectral analysis to dominate on specific spatial scales. In light of recent work that has tied remote atmospheric responses to NSWC anomalies in western boundary current regions, these results emphasize the importance of oceanic frontal zones for atmospheric variability on all spatiotemporal scales.

Restricted access
Morio Nakayama
,
Hisashi Nakamura
, and
Fumiaki Ogawa

Abstract

The baroclinic annular mode (BAM) is the leading mode of variability in extratropical eddy activity characterized by its hemispheric-scale pulsing. Based on atmospheric reanalysis data for the Southern Hemisphere, this study reveals BAM-associated systematic modulations not only in fluxes associated with subweekly transient disturbances, as found by earlier studies, but also in their spatial structure involved in the dynamics of the BAM. Specifically, in the positive phase of the BAM characterized by enhanced activity of transient disturbances, their lower-tropospheric baroclinic structure becomes more distinct, and they tend to be more elongated meridionally in both the upper and lower troposphere. These BAM-associated structural modulations of the disturbances favor the more efficient baroclinic development via enhanced poleward heat transport and their downstream development, which can contribute to hemispheric-scale enhancement of kinetic energy associated with the disturbances. In addition, a tendency of the disturbances to exhibit horizontally tilting structure becomes more evident in the positive phase of the BAM, which is favorable for enhanced transport of westerly momentum from the subtropics to the midlatitude polar-front jet, or equivalently enhanced wave-activity propagation from the midlatitude storm track into the subtropics. This modulation lags the peak of anomalous kinetic energy of the disturbances, thus acting to contribute to the decay of the BAM signature. A set of numerical simulations suggests that the BAM-associated pulsing in storm-track activity and structural modulations are manifestations of atmospheric internal dynamics, which can be significantly amplified in the presence of a midlatitude oceanic frontal zone through the formation of more organized and coherent baroclinic wave packets.

Open access
Fabien Desbiolles
,
Agostino N. Meroni
,
Lionel Renault
, and
Claudia Pasquero

Abstract

Sea surface temperature (SST) is characterized by abundant warm and cold structures that influence the overlying atmospheric boundary layer dynamics through two different mechanisms. First, turbulence and large eddies in the lower troposphere are affected by atmospheric stability, which can be modified by local SST, resulting in enhanced vertical mixing and larger surface winds over warmer waters. Second, the thermodynamic adjustment of air density to the underlying SST structures and the subsequent changes in atmospheric pressure drive secondary circulations. This paper aims to disentangle the effects of these processes and explore the environmental conditions that favor them. Two main environmental variables are considered: the large-scale air–sea temperature difference (proxy for stability) and wind speed. Using 5 years of daily reanalyses data, we investigate the 10-m wind response to SST structures. Based on linear regression between wind divergence and SST derivatives, we show that both mechanisms operate over a large spectrum of conditions. Ten-meter wind divergence is strongly impacted by the local SST via its effect on vertical mixing for midwind regimes in slightly unstable to near-neutral conditions, whereas the secondary circulation is important in two distinct regimes: low wind speed with a slightly unstable air column and high background wind speed with a very unstable air column. The first regime is explained by the prolonged Lagrangian time that the air parcel stays over an SST structure while the second one is related to strong heat fluxes at the air–sea interface, which greatly modify the marine atmospheric boundary layer properties. Location and frequency of the environmentally favorable conditions are discussed, as well as the response in low-cloud cover and rainfall.

Significance Statement

The main objective of this study is to explore the wind response to thermal structures at the sea surface under different environmental conditions using the latest atmospheric reanalysis. Recent literature suggests that fine-scale air–sea interactions affect a large spectrum of atmospheric dynamics, from seasonal to weather-type regimes. It is thus important to characterize the atmospheric response to ocean surface variability. Our findings describe the environmental conditions for which the two main physical processes through which the atmosphere responds to sea surface temperature structures are active the most and can guide the development of high-resolution observing missions and campaigns in specific geographical locations and seasons to retrieve data that can be used to improve parameterization in models.

Open access
Anirban Sinha
,
Jörn Callies
, and
Dimitris Menemenlis

Abstract

Submesoscale baroclinic instabilities have been shown to restratify the surface mixed layer and to seasonally energize submesoscale turbulence in the upper ocean. But do these instabilities also affect the large-scale circulation and stratification of the upper thermocline? This question is addressed for the North Atlantic Subtropical Mode Water region with a series of numerical simulations at varying horizontal grid spacings (16, 8, 4, and 2 km). These simulations are realistically forced and integrated long enough for the thermocline to adjust to the presence or absence of submesoscales. Linear stability analysis indicates that a 2-km grid spacing is sufficient to resolve the most unstable mode of the wintertime mixed layer instability. As the resolution is increased, spectral slopes of horizontal kinetic energy flatten and vertical velocities increase in magnitude, consistent with previous regional and short-time simulations. The equilibrium stratification of the thermocline changes drastically as the grid spacing is refined from 16 to 8 km and mesoscale eddies are fully resolved. The thermocline stratification remains largely unchanged, however, between the 8-, 4-, and 2-km runs. This robustness is argued to arise from a mesoscale constraint on the buoyancy variance budget. Once mesoscale processes are resolved, the rate of mesoscale variance production is largely fixed. This constrains the variance destruction by submesoscale vertical buoyancy fluxes, which thus remain invariant across resolutions. The bulk impact of mixed layer instabilities on upper-ocean stratification in the Subtropical Mode Water region through an enhanced vertical buoyancy flux is therefore captured at 8-km grid spacing, even though the instabilities are severely underresolved.

Restricted access
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.

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