Abstract

Climate models project an enhancement in SST seasonal cycle over the midlatitude oceans under global warming. The underlying mechanisms are investigated using a set of partially coupled experiments, in which the contribution from direct CO2 effects (i.e., the response in the absence of wind change) and wind feedbacks can be isolated from each other. Results indicate that both the direct CO2 and wind effects contribute to the enhancement in the SST seasonal cycle, with the former (latter) being more important in the Northern Hemisphere (Southern Hemisphere). Further decomposition of the wind effect into the wind stress feedback and wind speed feedback reveals the importance of the wind stress–driven ocean response in the change of SST seasonal cycle, a result in contrast to a previous study that ascribed the midlatitude SST seasonal cycle change to the thermodynamic wind speed feedback. The direct CO2 effect regulates the SST seasonal cycle through the warming-induced shoaling in the annual mean mixed layer depth (MLD) as well as the MLD difference between winter and summer. Moreover, the surface wind seasonal cycle changes due solely to the direct CO2 effect are found to bear a great resemblance to the full wind response, suggesting that the root cause for the enhancement of the midlatitude SST seasonal cycle resides in the direct CO2 effect. This notion is further supported by an ocean-alone experiment that reproduces the SST seasonal cycle enhancement under a spatially and temporally homogeneous surface thermal forcing.

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