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Manish K. Joshi, Muhammad Adnan Abid, and Fred Kucharski

Abstract

In this study the role of an Indian Ocean heating dipole anomaly in the transition of the North Atlantic–European (NAE) circulation response to El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) from early to late winter is analyzed using a twentieth-century reanalysis and simulations from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). It is shown that in early winter a warm (cold) ENSO event is connected through an atmospheric bridge with positive (negative) rainfall anomalies in the western Indian Ocean and negative (positive) anomalies in the eastern Indian Ocean. The early winter heating dipole, forced by a warm (cold) ENSO event, can set up a wave train emanating from the subtropical South Asian jet region that reaches the North Atlantic and leads to a response that spatially projects onto the positive (negative) phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation. The Indian Ocean heating dipole is partly forced as an atmospheric teleconnection by ENSO, but can also exist independently and is not strongly related to local Indian Ocean sea surface temperature (SST) forcing. The Indian Ocean heating dipole response to ENSO is much weaker in late winter (i.e., February and March) and not able to force significant signals in the North Atlantic region. CMIP5 multimodel ensemble reproduces the early winter Indian Ocean heating dipole response to ENSO and its transition in the North Atlantic region to some extent, but with weaker amplitude. Generally, models that have a strong early winter ENSO response in the subtropical South Asian jet region along with tropical Indian Ocean heating dipole also reproduce the North Atlantic response.

Open access
In-Sik Kang, Hyun-ho No, and Fred Kucharski

Abstract

The mechanism associated with the modulation of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) amplitude caused by the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) is investigated by using long-term historical observational data and various types of models. The observational data for the period 1900–2013 show that the ENSO variability weakened during the positive phase of the AMO and strengthened in the negative phase. Such a relationship between the AMO and ENSO amplitude has been reported by a number of previous studies. In the present study the authors demonstrate that the weakening of the ENSO amplitude during the positive phase of the AMO is related to changes of the SST cooling in the eastern and central Pacific accompanied by the easterly wind stress anomalies in the equatorial central Pacific, which were reproduced reasonably well by coupled general circulation model (CGCM) simulations performed with the Atlantic Ocean SST nudged perpetually with the observed SST representing the positive phase of the AMO and the free integration in the other ocean basins. Using a hybrid coupled model, it was determined that the mechanism associated with the weakening of the ENSO amplitude is related to the westward shift and weakening of the ENSO zonal wind stress anomalies accompanied by the westward shift of precipitation anomalies associated with the relatively cold background mean SST over the central Pacific.

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Bianca Mezzina, Javier García-Serrano, Ileana Bladé, and Fred Kucharski

Abstract

The winter extratropical teleconnection of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the North Atlantic–European (NAE) sector remains controversial, concerning both the amplitude of its impacts and the underlying dynamics. However, a well-established response is a late-winter (January–March) signal in sea level pressure (SLP) consisting of a dipolar pattern that resembles the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Clarifying the relationship between this “NAO-like” ENSO signal and the actual NAO is the focus of this study. The ENSO–NAE teleconnection and NAO signature are diagnosed by means of linear regression onto the sea surface temperature (SST) Niño-3.4 index and an EOF-based NAO index, respectively, using long-term reanalysis data (NOAA-20CR, ERA-20CR). While the similarity in SLP is evident, the analysis of anomalous upper-tropospheric geopotential height, zonal wind, and transient-eddy momentum flux, as well as precipitation and meridional eddy heat flux, suggests that there is no dynamical link between the phenomena. The observational results are further confirmed by analyzing two 10-member ensembles of atmosphere-only simulations (using an intermediate-complexity and a state-of-the-art model) with prescribed SSTs over the twentieth century. The SST-forced variability in the Northern Hemisphere is dominated by the extratropical ENSO teleconnection, which provides modest but significant SLP skill in the NAE midlatitudes. The regional internally generated variability, estimated from residuals around the ensemble mean, corresponds to the NAO pattern. It is concluded that distinct dynamics are at play in the ENSO–NAE teleconnection and NAO variability, and caution is advised when interpreting the former in terms of the latter.

Free access
In-Sik Kang, Irfan Ur Rashid, Fred Kucharski, Mansour Almazroui, and Abdulrahman K. Alkhalaf

Abstract

Multidecadal variations in the relationship between El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Arabian Peninsula rainfall are investigated using observed data for the last 60 years and various atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) experiments. The wet season in the Arabian Peninsula from November to April was considered. The 6-month averaged Arabian rainfall was negatively correlated with ENSO for an earlier 30-yr period from 1950 to 1979 and positively correlated to ENSO for a more recent period from 1981 to 2010. The multidecadal variations can be attributed to the variations in Indian Ocean SST anomalies accompanied by ENSO. In the early 30-yr period, ENSO accompanied relatively large SST anomalies in the Indian Ocean, whereas in the recent 30-yr period it accompanied relatively small SST anomalies in the Indian Ocean. The atmospheric anomalies in the Arabian region during ENSO are combined responses to the Pacific and Indian Ocean SST anomalies, which offset each other during ENSO. The recent El Niño events accompanied negative 200-hPa geopotential height (GH) anomalies over the Arabian region, mainly forced by the Pacific SST anomalies, resulting in an increase of precipitation over the region. In contrast, in the early 30-yr period, Indian Ocean SST anomalies played a dominant role in the atmospheric responses over the Arabian region during ENSO, and the negative GH anomalies and more precipitation over the Arabian region were mainly forced by the negative SST anomalies over the Indian Ocean, which appeared during La Niña. These observed findings are confirmed by various AGCM experiments.

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Riccardo Farneti, Suneet Dwivedi, Fred Kucharski, Franco Molteni, and Stephen M. Griffies

Abstract

The evolution of the Pacific subtropical cells (STC) is presented for the period 1948–2007. Using ocean models of different resolutions forced with interannually varying atmospheric forcing datasets, the mechanisms responsible for the observed STC weakening and late recovery during the period of study are analyzed. As a result of the STC weakening (strengthening), warming (cooling) trends are found in the equatorial Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs). Model results agree well with observed estimates of STC transport, STC convergence, and equatorial SST anomalies. It is shown that subtropical atmospheric variability is the primary driver of the STC and equatorial SST low-frequency evolution and is responsible for both the slowdown during the second half of the twentieth century and the rebound at the end of the century. Subtropically forced STC variability is identified as a major player in the generation of equatorial Pacific decadal SST anomalies, pacing tropical Pacific natural climate variability on interdecadal time scales, as observed in historical records. The natural mode of variability has implications for the evolution of equatorial SST in the coming decades under the concomitant effects of climate change.

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Juan Feng, Jianping Li, Fred Kucharski, Yaqi Wang, Cheng Sun, Fei Xie, and Yun Yang

Abstract

By decomposing the variations of the Hadley circulation (HC) and tropical zonal-mean sea surface temperature (SST) into the equatorially asymmetric (HEA for HC, SEA for SST) and symmetric (HES for HC, SES for SST) components, the varying response of the HC to different SST meridional structures under warm and cold conditions of the Indo-Pacific warm pool (IPWP) is investigated over the period 1979–2016. The response of the HC to SST evidences an asymmetric variation between warm and cold IPWP conditions; that is, the response ratio of HEA to SEA relative to that of HES to SES is ~5 under warm conditions and ~2 under cold conditions. This asymmetry is primarily due to a decrease in the HEA-to-SEA ratio under cold IPWP conditions, and is driven by changes in the meridional distribution of SST anomalies. Equatorial asymmetric (symmetric) SST anomalies are dominated by warm (cold) IPWP conditions. Thus, variations of SEA are suppressed under cold IPWP conditions, contributing to the observed weakening of the HEA-to-SEA ratio. The results presented here indicate that the HC is more sensitive to the underlying SST when the IPWP is warmer, during which the variation of SEA is enhanced, suggesting a recent strengthening of the response of the HC to SST, as the IPWP has warmed over the past several decades, and highlighting the importance of the IPWP meridional structures rather than the overall warming of the HC.

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Muhammad Adnan Abid, Fred Kucharski, Franco Molteni, In-Sik Kang, Adrian M. Tompkins, and Mansour Almazroui

Abstract

The present study focuses on the mechanism that controls the transition of the Euro-Atlantic circulation responses to El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) from early (December) to late winter (February) for the period 1981–2015. A positive phase of ENSO induces a precipitation dipole with increased precipitation in the western and reduced precipitation in the eastern tropical Indian Ocean; this occurs mainly during early winter (December) and less so in late winter (February). It is shown that these interbasin atmospheric teleconnections dominate the response in the Euro-Atlantic sector in early winter by modifying the subtropical South Asian jet (SAJET) and forcing a wavenumber-3 response that projects spatially onto the positive North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) pattern. On the contrary, during late winter, the response in the Euro-Atlantic sector is dominated by the well-known ENSO wave train from the tropical Pacific region, involving extratropical anomalies that project spatially on the positive phase of the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern and the negative phase of the NAO pattern. Numerical experiments with an atmospheric model (an AGCM) forced by an Indian Ocean heating dipole anomaly support the hypothesis that the Indian Ocean modulates the SAJET and enforces the Rossby wave propagation to the Euro-Atlantic region in early winter. These phenomena are also investigated using the ECMWF SEAS5 reforecast dataset. In SEAS5, the ENSO interbasin tropical teleconnections and the response of the Euro-Atlantic circulation anomalies and their change from early to late winter are realistically predicted, although the strength of the early winter signal originated from the Indian Ocean is underestimated.

Open access
Christophe Cassou, Yochanan Kushnir, Ed Hawkins, Anna Pirani, Fred Kucharski, In-Sik Kang, and Nico Caltabiano

Abstract

The study of Decadal Climate Variability (DCV) and Predictability is the interdisciplinary endeavor to characterize, understand, attribute, simulate, and predict the slow, multiyear variations of climate at global (e.g., the recent slowdown of global mean temperature rise in the early 2000s) and regional (e.g., decadal modulation of hurricane activity in the Atlantic, ongoing drought in California or in the Sahel in the 1970s–80s, etc.) scales. This study remains very challenging despite decades of research, extensive progress in climate system modeling, and improvements in the availability and coverage of a wide variety of observations. Considerable obstacles in applying this knowledge to actual predictions remain.

This short article is a succint review paper about DCV and predictability. Based on listed issues and priorities, it also proposes a unifying theme referred to as “drivers of teleconnectivity” as a backbone to address and structure the core DCV research challenge. This framework goes beyond a preoccupation with changes in the global mean temperature and directly addresses the regional impacts of external (natural and anthropogenic) climate forcing and internal climate interactions; it thus explicitly deals with the societal needs for region-specific climate information. Such a framework also enables the integration of efforts in a large international research community toward advancing the observation, characterization, understanding, and prediction of DCV. Recommendations to make progress are provided as part of the contribution of the CLIVAR “DCVP Research Focus” group.

Open access
Hyacinth C. Nnamchi, Jianping Li, Fred Kucharski, In-Sik Kang, Noel S. Keenlyside, Ping Chang, and Riccardo Farneti

Abstract

Equatorial Atlantic variability is dominated by the Atlantic Niño peaking during the boreal summer. Studies have shown robust links of the Atlantic Niño to fluctuations of the St. Helena subtropical anticyclone and Benguela Niño events. Furthermore, the occurrence of opposite sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the eastern equatorial and southwestern extratropical South Atlantic Ocean (SAO), also peaking in boreal summer, has recently been identified and termed the SAO dipole (SAOD). However, the extent to which and how the Atlantic Niño and SAOD are related remain unclear. Here, an analysis of historical observations reveals the Atlantic Niño as a possible intrinsic equatorial arm of the SAOD. Specifically, the observed sporadic equatorial warming characteristic of the Atlantic Niño (~0.4 K) is consistently linked to southwestern cooling (~−0.4 K) of the Atlantic Ocean during the boreal summer. Heat budget calculations show that the SAOD is largely driven by the surface net heat flux anomalies while ocean dynamics may be of secondary importance. Perturbations of the St. Helena anticyclone appear to be the dominant mechanism triggering the surface heat flux anomalies. A weakening of the anticyclone will tend to weaken the prevailing northeasterlies and enhance evaporative cooling over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean. In the equatorial region, the southeast trade winds weaken, thereby suppressing evaporation and leading to net surface warming. Thus, it is hypothesized that the wind–evaporation–SST feedback may be responsible for the growth of the SAOD events linking southern extratropics and equatorial Atlantic variability via surface net heat flux anomalies.

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Belen Rodríguez-Fonseca, Elsa Mohino, Carlos R. Mechoso, Cyril Caminade, Michela Biasutti, Marco Gaetani, J. Garcia-Serrano, Edward K. Vizy, Kerry Cook, Yongkang Xue, Irene Polo, Teresa Losada, Leonard Druyan, Bernard Fontaine, Juergen Bader, Francisco J. Doblas-Reyes, Lisa Goddard, Serge Janicot, Alberto Arribas, William Lau, Andrew Colman, M. Vellinga, David P. Rowell, Fred Kucharski, and Aurore Voldoire

Abstract

The Sahel experienced a severe drought during the 1970s and 1980s after wet periods in the 1950s and 1960s. Although rainfall partially recovered since the 1990s, the drought had devastating impacts on society. Most studies agree that this dry period resulted primarily from remote effects of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies amplified by local land surface–atmosphere interactions. This paper reviews advances made during the last decade to better understand the impact of global SST variability on West African rainfall at interannual to decadal time scales. At interannual time scales, a warming of the equatorial Atlantic and Pacific/Indian Oceans results in rainfall reduction over the Sahel, and positive SST anomalies over the Mediterranean Sea tend to be associated with increased rainfall. At decadal time scales, warming over the tropics leads to drought over the Sahel, whereas warming over the North Atlantic promotes increased rainfall. Prediction systems have evolved from seasonal to decadal forecasting. The agreement among future projections has improved from CMIP3 to CMIP5, with a general tendency for slightly wetter conditions over the central part of the Sahel, drier conditions over the western part, and a delay in the monsoon onset. The role of the Indian Ocean, the stationarity of teleconnections, the determination of the leader ocean basin in driving decadal variability, the anthropogenic role, the reduction of the model rainfall spread, and the improvement of some model components are among the most important remaining questions that continue to be the focus of current international projects.

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