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Haijun Yang, Zhengyu Liu, and Hui Wang

Abstract

The equatorial thermocline variability in the Pacific in response to the extratropical thermal and wind forcings is investigated with an ocean general circulation model [Modular Ocean Model, version 3 (MOM3)]. Sensitivity experiments show that the extratropical wind forcing and thermal forcing contribute equally to the equatorial variability. The wind-induced response is attributed to the off-equatorial wind within 30° of the equator; the thermal-induced response can be traced to higher latitudes. The thermal forcing affects the equator mainly through the equatorward transport of the perturbation temperature by mean subduction flow; the wind forcing affects the equator by changing the strength of meridional overturning circulations. It is also found that the Southern Hemisphere contributes more to the equatorial variability than the Northern Hemisphere under both external forcings.

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Haijun Yang, Yingying Zhao, and Zhengyu Liu

Abstract

A coupled box model is used to study the compensation between atmosphere and ocean heat transports. An analytical solution to the Bjerknes compensation (BJC) rate, defined as the ratio of anomalous atmosphere heat transport (AHT) to anomalous ocean heat transport (OHT), is obtained. The BJC rate is determined by local feedback between surface temperature and net heat flux at the top of atmosphere (TOA) and the AHT efficiency. In a stable climate that ensures global energy conservation, the changes between AHT and OHT tend to be always out of phase, and the BJC is always valid. This can be demonstrated when the climate is perturbed by freshwater flux. The BJC in this case exhibits three different behaviors: the anomalous AHT can undercompensate, overcompensate, or perfectly compensate the anomalous OHT, depending on the local feedback. Stronger negative local feedback will result in a lower BJC rate. Stronger positive local feedback will result in a larger overcompensation. If zero climate feedback occurs in the system, the AHT will compensate the OHT perfectly. However, the BJC will fail if the climate system is perturbed by heat flux. In this case, the changes in AHT and OHT will be in phase, and their ratio will be closely related to the mean AHT and OHT. In a more realistic situation when the climate is perturbed by both heat and freshwater fluxes, whether the BJC will occur depends largely on the interplay among meridional temperature and salinity gradients and the thermohaline circulation strength. This work explicitly shows that the energy conservation is the intrinsic mechanism of BJC and establishes a specific link between radiative feedback and the degree of compensation. It also implies a close relationship between the energy balance at the TOA and the ocean thermohaline dynamics.

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Zhengyu Liu, Haijun Yang, and Qinyu Liu

Abstract

Dynamics of the seasonal cycle of sea surface height (SSH) in the South China Sea (SCS) are studied using observations as well as numerical and theoretical models. Seasonal variability of the SCS is interpreted in light of large-scale dynamics and Rossby waves. It is found that the seasonal cycle over most of the SCS basin is determined predominantly by the regional ocean dynamics within the SCS. The SSH variability is shown to be forced mainly by surface wind curl on baroclinic Rossby waves. Annual baroclinic Rossby waves cross the basin in less than a few months, leaving the upper ocean in a quasi-steady Sverdrup balance. An anomalous cyclonic (anticyclonic) gyre is generated in winter (summer) by the anomalous cyclonic (anticyclonic) wind curl that is associated with the northeasterly (southwesterly) monsoon. In addition, surface heat flux acts to enhance the wind-generated variability. The winter surface cooling (warming) cools (warms) the mixed layer especially in the central SCS, reducing (increasing) the SSH.

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Qianzi Yang, Yingying Zhao, Qin Wen, Jie Yao, and Haijun Yang

Abstract

The Bjerknes compensation (BJC) under global warming is studied using a simple box model and a coupled Earth system model. The BJC states the out-of-phase changes in the meridional atmosphere and ocean heat transports. Results suggest that the BJC can occur during the transient period of global warming. During the transient period, the sea ice melting in the high latitudes can cause a significant weakening of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), resulting in a cooling in the North Atlantic. The meridional contrast of sea surface temperature would be enhanced, and this can eventually enhance the Hadley cell and storm-track activities in the Northern Hemisphere. Accompanied by changes in both ocean and atmosphere circulations, the northward ocean heat transport in the Atlantic is decreased while the northward atmosphere heat transport is increased, and the BJC occurs in the Northern Hemisphere. Once the freshwater influx into the North Atlantic Ocean stops, or the ocean even loses freshwater because of strong heating in the high latitudes, the AMOC would recover. Both the atmosphere and ocean heat transports would be enhanced, and they can eventually recover to the state of the control run, leading to the BJC to become invalid. The above processes are clearly demonstrated in the coupled model CO2 experiment. Since it is difficult to separate the freshwater effect from the heating effect in the coupled model, a simple box model is used to understand the BJC mechanism and freshwater’s role under global warming. In a warming climate, the freshwater flux into the ocean can cool the global surface temperature, mitigating the temperature rise. Box model experiments indicate clearly that it is the freshwater flux into the North Atlantic that causes out-of-phase changes in the atmosphere and ocean heat transports, which eventually plays a stabilizing role in global climate change.

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Qin Wen, Jie Yao, Kristofer Döös, and Haijun Yang

Abstract

The global temperature changes under global warming result from two effects: one is the pure radiative heating effect caused by a change in greenhouse gases, and the other is the freshwater effect related to changes in precipitation, evaporation, and sea ice. The two effects are separated in a coupled climate model through sensitivity experiments in this study. It is indicated that freshwater change has a significant cooling effect that can mitigate the global surface warming by as much as ~30%. Two significant regional cooling centers occur: one in the subpolar Atlantic and one in the Southern Ocean. The subpolar Atlantic cooling, also known as the “warming hole,” is triggered by sea ice melting and the southward cold-water advection from the Arctic Ocean, and is sustained by the weakened Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. The Southern Ocean surface cooling is triggered by sea ice melting along the Antarctic and is maintained by the enhanced northward Ekman flow. In these two regions, the effect of freshwater flux change dominates over that of radiation flux change, controlling the sea surface temperature change in the warming climate. The freshwater flux change also results in the Bjerknes compensation, with the atmosphere heat transport change compensating the ocean heat transport change by about 80% during the transient stage of global warming. In terms of global temperature and Earth’s energy balance, the freshwater change plays a stabilizing role in a warming climate.

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Haijun Yang, Xingchen Shen, Jie Yao, and Qin Wen

Abstract

As the most extensive highland in the world, the Tibetan Plateau (TP) plays an important role in shaping the global climate. Quantifying the effect of the TP on global climate is the first step for a full understanding of the TP’s standing on planet Earth. Through coupled model sensitivity experiments, we draw a panorama of the TP’s global impact in this paper. Our model results show that the absence of the TP would result in a 4°C colder and 10% drier climate in the Northern Hemisphere (NH). The TP has a striking remote effect on the North Atlantic. Removing the TP would enhance the westerlies in the mid- to high latitudes of the NH and weaken the easterlies over the tropical Pacific. More moisture would be relocated from the tropical Pacific to the North Atlantic, shutting down the Atlantic thermohaline circulation, which would eventually result in more than 15°C colder and 20% drier climate over the North Atlantic. Our model results suggest that the presence of the TP may have contributed greatly to the hospitable modern climate in the NH, by promoting the establishment of the thermohaline circulation in the Atlantic, and therefore enhancing the northward ocean heat transport and atmosphere moisture transport across the equator.

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Qin Wen, Kristofer Döös, Zhengyao Lu, Zixuan Han, and Haijun Yang

ABSTRACT

The role of the Tibetan Plateau (TP) in El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability is investigated using coupled model experiments with different topography setups. Removing the TP results in weakened trade winds in the tropical Pacific, an eastward shift of atmospheric convection center, a shallower mixed layer in the equatorial Pacific, and a flattened equatorial thermocline, which leads to an El Niño–like sea surface temperature (SST) response. In association with these mean climate changes in the tropical atmosphere–ocean system, the ENSO variability exhibits a much stronger amplitude in the world without the TP. Detailed diagnoses reveal that in the absence of the TP, both thermocline feedback in the eastern equatorial Pacific and Ekman pumping feedback in the central-eastern equatorial Pacific are enhanced substantially, leading to stronger ENSO variability. The changes of these two feedbacks are caused by the eastward shift of the atmospheric convection center and enhanced ocean sensitivity; the latter is due to the shallower mixed layer and flattened thermocline. This study suggests that the presence of the TP may be of fundamental importance for modern-day tropical climate variability; namely, the TP may have played a role in suppressing ENSO variability.

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Zhengyu Liu, Haijun Yang, Chengfei He, and Yingying Zhao

Abstract

The response of the atmospheric energy (heat) transport (AHT) to a perturbation oceanic heat transport (OHT) is studied theoretically in a zonal mean energy balance model, with the focus on the effect of climate feedback, especially its spatial variation, on Bjerknes compensation (BJC). It is found that the BJC depends critically on climate feedback. For a stable climate, in which negative climate feedback is dominant, the AHT always compensates the OHT in the opposite direction. Furthermore, if local climate feedback is negative everywhere, the AHT will be weaker than the OHT (undercompensation) because of the damping on the surface oceanic heating through the top-of-atmosphere energy loss. One novel finding is that the compensation magnitude depends on the spatial scale of the forcing and is bounded between a minimum at the global scale and a maximum (of perfect compensation) at small scales. Most interestingly, the BJC is affected significantly by the spatial variation of the feedback, particularly a local positive climate feedback. As such, a regional positive feedback can lead to a compensating AHT greater than the perturbation OHT (overcompensation). This occurs because the positive feedback enhances the local temperature response, the anomalous temperature gradient, and, in turn, the AHT. Finally, the poleward latent heat transport leads to a temperature response with a polar amplification accompanied by a polar steepening of temperature gradient but does not change the BJC significantly. Potential applications of this BJC theory to more complex climate model studies are also discussed.

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Haijun Yang, Qin Wen, Jie Yao, and Yuxing Wang

Abstract

Using a coupled Earth climate model, freshwater forcing experiments are performed to study the Bjerknes compensation (BJC) between meridional atmosphere heat transport (AHT) and meridional ocean heat transport (OHT). Freshwater hosing in the North Atlantic weakens the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and thus reduces the northward OHT in the Atlantic significantly, leading to a cooling (warming) in the surface layer in the Northern (Southern) Hemisphere. This results in an enhanced Hadley cell and northward AHT. Meanwhile, the OHT in the Indo-Pacific is increased in response to the Hadley cell change, partially offsetting the reduced OHT in the Atlantic. Two compensations occur here: compensation between the AHT and the Atlantic OHT, and that between the Indo-Pacific OHT and the Atlantic OHT. The AHT change undercompensates the OHT change by about 60% in the extratropics, while the former overcompensates the latter by about 30% in the tropics due to the Indo-Pacific change. The BJC can be understood from the viewpoint of large-scale circulation change. However, the intrinsic mechanism of BJC is related to the climate feedback of the Earth system. The authors’ coupled model experiments confirm that the occurrence of BJC is an intrinsic requirement of local energy balance, and local climate feedback determines the extent of BJC, consistent with previous theoretical results. Even during the transient period of climate change, the BJC is well established when the ocean heat storage is slowly varying and its change is much weaker than the net local heat flux change at the ocean surface. The BJC can be deduced from the local climate feedback. Under the freshwater forcing, the overcompensation in the tropics is mainly caused by the positive longwave feedback related to clouds, and the undercompensation in the extratropics is due to the negative longwave feedback related to surface temperature change. Different dominant feedbacks determine different BJC scenarios in different regions, which are in essence constrained by local energy balance.

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Jingzhi Su, Huijun Wang, Haijun Yang, Helge Drange, Yongqi Gao, and Mats Bentsen

Abstract

A coupled climate model is used to explore the response of the tropical sea surface temperature (SST) to positive SST anomalies in the global extratropics. The main model results here are consistent with previous numerical studies. In response to prescribed SST anomalies in the extratropics, the tropical SSTs rise rapidly and reach a quasi-equilibrium state within several years, and the tropical subsurface temperatures show a slow response. The annual-mean Hadley cell, as well as the surface trades, are weakened. The weakened trades reduce the poleward Ekman transports in the tropical ocean and, furthermore, lead to anomalous positive convergences of heat transport, which is the main mechanism for maintaining the tropical Pacific SST warming.

The process of an extratropical influence on the tropics is related to both the atmospheric and oceanic circulations. The intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) moves southward and eastward in the Pacific, corresponding to a reduction of the Hadley circulation and Walker circulation. At the same time, convective precipitation anomalies are formed on the boundary of the climatological ITCZ, while the climatological mean convections centered in the Southeast Asia region are suppressed. The largely delayed response of the tropical subsurface temperature cannot be explained only by the strength change of the subtropical cells (STCs), but can be traced back to the slow changing of subsurface temperature in the extratropics. In the extratropical oceans, warming and freshening reduce the surface water density, and the outcropping lines of certain isopycnal layers are moved poleward. This poleward movement of outcropping lines can weaken the positive temperature anomalies, or even lead to negative anomalies, on given isopycnal layers. Displayed on time-dependent isopycnal layers, positive subsurface temperature anomalies are present only in the region after subduction, and are subsequently replaced by negative temperature anomalies in the deep tropics regions. The noticeable features of the density compensation of temperature and salinity indicate that diapycnal processes play an important role in the equatorward transport of the temperature and salinity anomalies from the midlatitude.

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