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Alexandros P. Poulidis, Ian A. Renfrew, and Adrian J. Matthews

Abstract

Intense rainfall over active volcanoes is known to trigger dangerous volcanic hazards, from remobilizing loose volcanic surface material into lahars or mudflows to initiating explosive activity including pyroclastic flows at certain dome-forming volcanoes. However, the effect of the heated volcanic surface on the atmospheric circulation, including any feedback with precipitation, is unknown. This is investigated here, using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model. The recent activity at the Soufrière Hills Volcano (SHV), Montserrat, is a well-documented case of such rainfall–volcano interaction and is used as a template for these experiments. The volcano is represented in the model by an idealized Gaussian mountain, with an imposed realistic surface temperature anomaly on the volcano summit. A robust increase in precipitation over the volcano is simulated for surface temperature anomalies above approximately 40°C, an area-average value that is exceeded at the SHV. For wind speeds less than 4 m s−1 and a range of realistic atmospheric conditions, the precipitation increase is well above the threshold required to trigger volcanic hazards (5–10 mm h−1). Hence, the thermal atmospheric forcing due to an active, but nonerupting, volcano appears to be an important factor in rainfall–volcano interactions and should be taken account of in future hazard studies.

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Pranab Deb, Adrian J. Matthews, Manoj M. Joshi, and Natasha Senior

Abstract

Rossby wave trains triggered by tropical convection strongly affect the atmospheric circulation in the extratropics. Using daily gridded observational and reanalysis data, we demonstrate that a technique based on linear response theory effectively captures the linear response in 250-hPa geopotential height anomalies in the Northern Hemisphere using examples of steplike changes in precipitation over selected tropical areas during boreal winter. Application of this method to six models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5), using the same tropical forcing, reveals a large intermodel spread in the linear response associated with intermodel differences in Rossby waveguide structure. The technique is then applied to a projected tropicswide precipitation change in the HadGEM2-ES model during 2025–45 December–February, a period corresponding to a 2°C rise in the mean global temperature under the RCP8.5 scenario. The response is found to depend on whether the mean state underlying the technique is calculated using observations, the present-day simulation, or the future projection; indeed, the bias in extratropical response to tropical precipitation because of errors in the basic state is much larger than the projected change in extratropical circulation itself. We therefore propose the linear step response method as a semiempirical method of making near-term future projections of the extratropical circulation, which should assist in quantifying uncertainty in such projections.

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Sally L. Lavender, Christopher M. Taylor, and Adrian J. Matthews

Abstract

Recent observational studies have suggested a role for soil moisture and land–atmosphere coupling in the 15-day westward-propagating mode of intraseasonal variability in the West African monsoon. This hypothesis is investigated with a set of three atmospheric general circulation model experiments. 1) When soil moisture is fully coupled with the atmospheric model, the 15-day mode of land–atmosphere variability is clearly identified. Precipitation anomalies lead soil moisture anomalies by 1–2 days, similar to the results from satellite observations. 2) To assess whether soil moisture is merely a passive response to the precipitation, or an active participant in this mode, the atmospheric model is forced with a 15-day westward-propagating cycle of regional soil moisture anomalies based on the fully coupled mode. Through a reduced surface sensible heat flux, the imposed wet soil anomalies induce negative low-level temperature anomalies and increased pressure (a cool high). An anticyclonic circulation then develops around the region of wet soil, enhancing northward moisture advection and precipitation to the west. Hence, in a coupled framework, this soil moisture–forced precipitation response would provide a self-consistent positive feedback on the westward-propagating soil moisture anomaly and implies an active role for soil moisture. 3) In a final sensitivity experiment, soil moisture is again externally prescribed but with all intraseasonal fluctuations suppressed. In the absence of soil moisture variability there are still pronounced surface sensible heat flux variations, likely due to cloud changes, and the 15-day westward-propagating precipitation signal is still present. However, it is not as coherent as in the previous experiments when interaction with soil moisture was permitted. Further examination of the soil moisture forcing experiment in GCM experiment 2 shows that this precipitation mode becomes phase locked to the imposed soil moisture anomalies. Hence, the 15-day westward-propagating mode in the West African monsoon can exist independently of soil moisture; however, soil moisture and land–atmosphere coupling act to feed back on the atmosphere and further enhance and organize it.

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Crispian P. Batstone, Adrian J. Matthews, and David P. Stevens

Abstract

A principal component analysis of the combined fields of sea surface temperature (SST) and surface zonal and meridional wind reveals that the dominant mode of intraseasonal (30 to 70 day) covariability during northern winter in the tropical Eastern Hemisphere is that of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO). Regression calculations show that the submonthly (30-day high-pass filtered) surface wind variability is significantly modulated during the MJO. Regions of increased (decreased) submonthly surface wind variability propagate eastward, approximately in phase with the intraseasonal surface westerly (easterly) anomalies of the MJO. Because of the dependence of the surface latent heat flux on the magnitude of the total wind speed, this systematic modulation of the submonthly surface wind variability produces a significant component in the intraseasonal latent heat flux anomalies, which partially cancels the latent heat flux anomalies due to the slowly varying intraseasonal wind anomalies, particularly south of 10°S.

A method is derived that demodulates the submonthly surface wind variability from the slowly varying intraseasonal wind anomalies. This method is applied to the wind forcing fields of a one-dimensional ocean model. The model response to this modified forcing produces larger intraseasonal SST anomalies than when the model is forced with the observed forcing over large areas of the southwest Pacific Ocean and southeast Indian Ocean during both phases of the MJO. This result has implications for accurate coupled modeling of the MJO. A similar calculation is applied to the surface shortwave flux, but intraseasonal modulation of submonthly surface shortwave flux variability does not appear to be important to the dynamics of the MJO.

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Adrian J. Matthews, Dariusz B. Baranowski, Karen J. Heywood, Piotr J. Flatau, and Sunke Schmidtko

Abstract

A surface diurnal warm layer is diagnosed from Seaglider observations and develops on half of the days in the Cooperative Indian Ocean Experiment on Intraseasonal Variability/Dynamics of the Madden–Julian Oscillation (CINDY/DYNAMO) Indian Ocean experiment. The diurnal warm layer occurs on days of high solar radiation flux (>80 W m−2) and low wind speed (<6 m s−1) and preferentially in the inactive stage of the Madden–Julian oscillation. Its diurnal harmonic has an exponential vertical structure with a depth scale of 4–5 m (dependent on chlorophyll concentration), consistent with forcing by absorption of solar radiation. The effective sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly due to the diurnal warm layer often reaches 0.8°C in the afternoon, with a daily mean of 0.2°C, rectifying the diurnal cycle onto longer time scales. This SST anomaly drives an anomalous flux of 4 W m−2 that cools the ocean. Alternatively, in a climate model where this process is unresolved, this represents an erroneous flux that warms the ocean. A simple model predicts a diurnal warm layer to occur on 30%–50% of days across the tropical warm pool. On the remaining days, with low solar radiation and high wind speeds, a residual diurnal cycle is observed by the Seaglider, with a diurnal harmonic of temperature that decreases linearly with depth. As wind speed increases, this already weak temperature gradient decreases further, tending toward isothermal conditions.

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Matthew J. Niznik, Benjamin R. Lintner, Adrian J. Matthews, and Matthew J. Widlansky

Abstract

The South Pacific convergence zone (SPCZ) is simulated as too zonal a feature in the current generation of climate models, including those in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). This zonal bias induces errors in tropical convective heating, with subsequent effects on global circulation. The SPCZ structure, particularly in the subtropics, is governed by the tropical–extratropical interaction between transient synoptic systems and the mean background state. In this study, analysis of synoptic variability in the simulated subtropical SPCZ reveals that the basic mechanism of tropical–extratropical interaction is generally well simulated, with storms approaching the SPCZ along comparable trajectories to observations. However, there is a broad spread in mean precipitation and its variability across the CMIP5 ensemble. Intermodel spread appears to relate to a biased background state in which the synoptic waves propagate. In particular, the region of mean negative zonal stretching deformation or “storm graveyard” in the upper troposphere is displaced in CMIP5 models to the northeast of its position in reanalysis data, albeit with pronounced (≈25°) intermodel longitudinal spread. Precipitation along the eastern edge of the SPCZ shifts in accordance with a storm graveyard shift, and in general models with stronger storm graveyards show higher precipitation variability. Building on prior SPCZ research, it is suggested that SPCZs simulated by CMIP5 models are not simply too zonal; rather, in models the subtropical SPCZ manifests a diagonal tilt similar to observations while SST biases force an overly zonal tropical SPCZ, resulting in a more discontinuous SPCZ than observed.

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Benjamin G. M. Webber, David P. Stevens, Adrian J. Matthews, and Karen J. Heywood

Abstract

The authors show that a simple three-dimensional ocean model linearized about a resting basic state can accurately simulate the dynamical ocean response to wind forcing by the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO). This includes the propagation of equatorial waves in the Indian Ocean, from the generation of oceanic equatorial Kelvin waves to the arrival of downwelling oceanic equatorial Rossby waves in the western Indian Ocean, where they have been shown to trigger MJO convective activity. Simulations with idealized wind forcing suggest that the latitudinal width of this forcing plays a crucial role in determining the potential for such feedbacks. Forcing the model with composite MJO winds accurately captures the global ocean response, demonstrating that the observed ocean dynamical response to the MJO can be interpreted as a linear response to surface wind forcing. The model is then applied to study “primary” Madden–Julian events, which are not immediately preceded by any MJO activity or by any apparent atmospheric triggers, but have been shown to coincide with the arrival of downwelling oceanic equatorial Rossby waves. Case study simulations show how this oceanic equatorial Rossby wave activity is partly forced by reflection of an oceanic equatorial Kelvin wave triggered by a westerly wind burst 140 days previously, and partly directly forced by easterly wind stress anomalies around 40 days prior to the event. This suggests predictability for primary Madden–Julian events on times scales of up to five months, following the reemergence of oceanic anomalies forced by winds almost half a year earlier.

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Alejandra Sanchez-Franks, Elizabeth C. Kent, Adrian J. Matthews, Benjamin G. M. Webber, Simon C. Peatman, and P. N. Vinayachandran

Abstract

In the Bay of Bengal (BoB), surface heat fluxes play a key role in monsoon dynamics and prediction. The accurate representation of large-scale surface fluxes is dependent on the quality of gridded reanalysis products. Meteorological and surface flux variables from five reanalysis products are compared and evaluated against in situ data from the Research Moored Array for African–Asian–Australian Monsoon Analysis and Prediction (RAMA) in the BoB. The reanalysis products: ERA-Interim (ERA-I), TropFlux, MERRA-2, JRA-55, and CFSR are assessed for their characterization of air–sea fluxes during the southwest monsoon season [June–September (JJAS)]. ERA-I captured radiative fluxes best while TropFlux captured turbulent and net heat fluxes Q net best, and both products outperformed JRA-55, MERRA-2, and CFSR, showing highest correlations and smallest biases when compared to the in situ data. In all five products, the largest errors were in shortwave radiation Q SW and latent heat flux Q LH, with nonnegligible biases up to approximately 75 W m−2. The Q SW and Q LH are the largest drivers of the observed Q net variability, thus highlighting the importance of the results from the buoy comparison. There are also spatially coherent differences in the mean basinwide fields of surface flux variables from the reanalysis products, indicating that the biases at the buoy position are not localized. Biases of this magnitude have severe implications on reanalysis products’ ability to capture the variability of monsoon processes. Hence, the representation of intraseasonal variability was investigated through the boreal summer intraseasonal oscillation, and we found that TropFlux and ERA-I perform best at capturing intraseasonal climate variability during the southwest monsoon season.

Open access
Jenson V. George, P. N. Vinayachandran, V. Vijith, V. Thushara, Anoop A. Nayak, Shrikant M. Pargaonkar, P. Amol, K. Vijaykumar, and Adrian J. Matthews

Abstract

During the Bay of Bengal (BoB) Boundary Layer Experiment (BoBBLE) in the southern BoB, time series of microstructure measurements were obtained at 8°N, 89°E from 4 to 14 July 2016. These observations captured events of barrier layer (BL) erosion and reformation. Initially, a three-layer structure was observed: a fresh surface mixed layer (ML) of thickness 10–20 m; a BL below of 30–40-m thickness with similar temperature but higher salinity; and a high salinity core layer, associated with the Summer Monsoon Current. Each of these three layers was in relative motion to the others, leading to regions of high shear at the interfaces. However, the destabilizing influence of the shear regions was not enough to overcome the haline stratification, and the three-layer structure was preserved. A salinity budget using in situ observations suggested that during the BL erosion, differential advection brought high salinity surface waters (34.5 psu) with weak stratification to the time series location and replaced the three-layer structure with a deep ML (~60 m). The resulting weakened stratification at the time series location then allowed atmospheric wind forcing to penetrate deeper. The turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rate and eddy diffusivity showed elevated values above 10−7 W kg−1 and 10−4 m2 s−1, respectively, in the upper 60 m. Later, the surface salinity decreased again (33.8 psu) through differential horizontal advection, stratification became stronger and elevated mixing rates were confined to the upper 20 m, and the BL reformed. A 1D model experiment suggested that in the study region, differential advection of temperature–salinity characteristics is essential for the maintenance of BL and to the extent to which mixing penetrates the water column.

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Benjamin G. M. Webber, Adrian J. Matthews, P. N. Vinayachandran, C. P. Neema, Alejandra Sanchez-Franks, V. Vijith, P. Amol, and Dariusz B. Baranowski

Abstract

The strong stratification of the Bay of Bengal (BoB) causes rapid variations in sea surface temperature (SST) that influence the development of monsoon rainfall systems. This stratification is driven by the salinity difference between the fresh surface waters of the northern bay and the supply of warm, salty water by the Southwest Monsoon Current (SMC). Despite the influence of the SMC on monsoon dynamics, observations of this current during the monsoon are sparse. Using data from high-resolution in situ measurements along an east–west section at 8°N in the southern BoB, we calculate that the northward transport during July 2016 was between 16.7 and 24.5 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1), although up to ⅔ of this transport is associated with persistent recirculating eddies, including the Sri Lanka Dome. Comparison with climatology suggests the SMC in early July was close to the average annual maximum strength. The NEMO 1/12° ocean model with data assimilation is found to faithfully represent the variability of the SMC and associated water masses. We show how the variability in SMC strength and position is driven by the complex interplay between local forcing (wind stress curl over the Sri Lanka Dome) and remote forcing (Kelvin and Rossby wave propagation). Thus, various modes of climatic variability will influence SMC strength and location on time scales from weeks to years. Idealized one-dimensional ocean model experiments show that subsurface water masses advected by the SMC significantly alter the evolution of SST and salinity, potentially impacting Indian monsoon rainfall.

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