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Niklas Schneider and Bruce D. Cornuelle

Abstract

The Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO), defined as the leading empirical orthogonal function of North Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies, is a widely used index for decadal variability. It is shown that the PDO can be recovered from a reconstruction of North Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies based on a first-order autoregressive model and forcing by variability of the Aleutian low, El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and oceanic zonal advection anomalies in the Kuroshio–Oyashio Extension. The latter results from oceanic Rossby waves that are forced by North Pacific Ekman pumping. The SST response patterns to these processes are not orthogonal, and they determine the spatial characteristics of the PDO. The importance of the different forcing processes is frequency dependent. At interannual time scales, forcing from ENSO and the Aleutian low determines the response in equal parts. At decadal time scales, zonal advection in the Kuroshio–Oyashio Extension, ENSO, and anomalies of the Aleutian low each account for similar amounts of the PDO variance. These results support the hypothesis that the PDO is not a dynamical mode, but arises from the superposition of sea surface temperature fluctuations with different dynamical origins.

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Yoshi N. Sasaki and Niklas Schneider

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Meridional shifts of the Kuroshio Extension (KE) jet on decadal time scales are examined using a 1960–2004 hindcast simulation of an eddy-resolving ocean general circulation model for the Earth Simulator (OFES). The leading mode of the simulated KE represents the meridional shifts of the jet on decadal time scales with the largest southward shift in the early 1980s associated with the climate regime shift in 1976/77, a result confirmed with subsurface temperature observations. The meridional shifts originate east of the date line and propagate westward along the mean jet axis, a trajectory inconsistent with the traditionally used linear long Rossby waves linearized in Cartesian coordinates, although the phase speed is comparable to that in the traditional framework. The zonal scale of these westward propagation signals is about 4000 km and much larger than their meridional scale. To understand the mechanism for the westward propagation of the KE jet shifts, the authors consider the limit of a thin jet. This dynamic framework describes the temporal evolution of the location of a sharp potential vorticity front under the assumption that variations along the jet are small compared to variations normal to the jet in natural coordinates and is well suited to the strong jet and potential vorticity gradients of the KE. For scaling appropriate to the decadal adjustments in the KE, the thin-jet model successfully reproduces the westward propagations and decadal shifts of the jet latitude simulated in OFES. These results give a physical basis for the prediction of decadal variability in the KE.

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Niklas Schneider and Tim P. Barnett

Abstract

The relative roles of heat and freshwater fluxes in forcing the tropical Pacific on interannual timescales are investigated using sophisticated atmospheric and oceanic general circulation models.

Interannual density flux anomalies due to anomalous precipitation and shortwave and longwave radiation are highly correlated since they all depend on clouds. Their respective contributions to the anomalous surface density flux are of comparable magnitude, with precipitation and longwave anomalies opposing shortwave radiation. This implies that anomalous radiation and precipitation associated with the eastward shift of the centers of deep convection during El Niño change the density flux little since they largely balance. This near cancellation also causes the evaporative component to dominate interannual anomalies of the density flux in the eastern Pacific and in the Indian Ocean and implies that anomalous net surface density fluxes there can be approximated by anomalous evaporation alone. However, in the central and western Pacific, evaporative anomalies are negatively correlated to shortwave anomalies as well, and interannual anomalies of the net density flux are therefore small and deviate considerably from the evaporative component alone.

Forcing an oceanic circulation model with the interannual anomalies of the fluxes of heat and freshwater alone yields salinity and temperature anomalies of the same order as observed. Model salinity anomalies explain approximately half of the observations, while temperature anomalies have reversed signs compared to observations. This reflects the negative feedback between surface heat fluxes and the warming caused by interannual anomalies of the wind not included in this simulation.

Over most of the tropical ocean, interannual anomalies of surface density are dominated by temperature anomalies. In the central Pacific, salinity anomalies diminish up to half of the effect of temperature. Anomalies of the velocity fields due to interannual anomalies of the surface heat and freshwater fluxes are largest in the eastern equatorial ocean, where the thermocline is shallow and anomalies of the surface flux have the largest impact on vertical mixing.

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Niklas Schneider and Arthur J. Miller

Abstract

It is shown that wintertime sea surface temperature anomalies in the confluence region of the Kuroshio–Oyashio Currents in the western North Pacific can be skillfully predicted at lead times of up to 3 yr. The predictions are based on the history of the wind stress over the North Pacific and oceanic Rossby wave dynamics. The predictions may be exploitable in fisheries research and other ecological applications.

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Bo Qiu, Shuiming Chen, and Niklas Schneider

Abstract

Rather than a single and continuous boundary current outflow, long-term satellite observations reveal that the Oyashio Extension (OE) in the North Pacific Subarctic Gyre comprises two independent, northeast–southwest-slanted front systems. With a mean latitude along 40°N, the western OE front exists primarily west of 153°E and is a continuation of the subarctic gyre western boundary current. The eastern OE front, also appearing along 40°N, is located between 153° and 170°E, whose entity is disconnected from its western counterpart. During 1982–2016, both of the OE fronts exhibit prominent decadal fluctuations, although their signals show little contemporaneous correlation. An upper-ocean temperature budget analysis based on the Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, phase II (ECCO2), state estimate reveals that the advective temperature flux convergence plays a critical role in determining the low-frequency temperature changes relating to the OE fronts. Specifically, the western OE front variability is controlled by the decadal mesoscale eddy modulations in the upstream Kuroshio Extension (KE). An enhanced eddy activity increases the poleward heat transport and works to strengthen the western OE front. The eastern OE front variability, on the other hand, is dictated by both the meridional shift of the KE position and the circulation intensity change immediately north of the eastern OE. Different baroclinic adjustment speeds for the KE and OE are found to cause the in-phase changes between these latter two processes. Lack of contemporaneous correlation between the decadal western and eastern OE variability is found to be related to the interaction of the meridionally migrating KE jet with the Shatsky Rise near 159°E.

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Tangdong Qu, Linlin Zhang, and Niklas Schneider

Abstract

Subtropical underwater (STUW) and its year-to-year variability in annual subduction rate are investigated using recently available Argo data in the North Atlantic. For the period of observation (2002–14), the mean annual subduction rate of the STUW is 7.3 ± 1.2 Sv (1 Sv = 106 m3 s−1) within the density range between 25.0 and 26.0 kg m−3. Once subducted, the STUW spreads in the subtropical gyre as a vertical salinity maximum. In the mean, the spatial changes in temperature and salinity of the STUW tend to compensate each other, and the density of the water mass remains rather stable near 25.5 kg m−3 in the southwestern part of the subtropical gyre. The annual subduction rate of the STUW varies from year to year, and most of this variability is due to lateral induction, which in turn is directly linked to the variability of the winter mixed layer depth. Through modulation of surface buoyancy, wind anomalies associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation are primarily responsible for this variability. Sea surface salinity anomalies in the formation region of the STUW are conveyed into the thermocline, but their westward propagation cannot be detected by the present data.

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Yoshi N. Sasaki, Shoshiro Minobe, and Niklas Schneider

Abstract

This study examines interannual to decadal variability of the Kuroshio Extension (KE) jet using satellite altimeter observations from 1993 to 2010. The leading empirical orthogonal function (EOF) mode of sea level variability in the KE region represents the meridional shift of the KE jet, followed by its strength changes with a few month lag. This shift of the KE jet lags atmospheric fluctuations over the eastern North Pacific by about three years. Broad sea level anomalies (SLAs) emerge in the eastern North Pacific 3–4 years before the upstream KE jet shift, and propagate westward along the KE jet axis. In the course of the propagation, the meridional scale of the SLAs gradually narrows, and their amplitude increases. This westward propagation of SLAs with a speed of about 5 cm s−1 is attributed to the westward propagation of the meridional shift of the jet, consistent with the thin-jet theory, whose importance has been suggested by previous numerical studies. In addition, the westward-propagating signals tend to conserve their quasigeostrophic potential vorticity anomaly, which may explain the characteristic changes of SLAs during the propagation. After the westward-propagating signals of positive (negative) SLAs reach at the east coast of Japan, the upstream KE jet strengthens (weakens) associated with the strength changes of the northern and southern recirculation gyres. Interestingly, this strength change of the KE jet propagates eastward with a speed of about 6 cm s−1, suggesting an importance of advection by the current.

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Thomas Kilpatrick, Niklas Schneider, and Bo Qiu

Abstract

Recent studies indicate that the influence of midlatitude SST fronts extends through the marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL) into the free atmosphere, with implications for climate variability. To better understand the mechanisms of this ocean-to-atmosphere influence, SST-induced MABL convergence is explored here with the Weather Research and Forecasting mesoscale model in an idealized, dry, two-dimensional configuration, for winds crossing from cold to warm SST and from warm to cold SST.

For strong cross-front winds, O(10 m s−1), changes in the turbulent mixing and MABL depth across the SST front lead to MABL depth-integrated convergence in the cold-to-warm case and depth-integrated divergence in the warm-to-cold case. The turbulent stress divergence term changes over a shorter length scale than the pressure gradient and Coriolis terms, such that the MABL response directly above the SST front is governed by nonrotating, internal boundary layer–like physics, which are consistent with the vertical mixing mechanism. An important consequence is that the increment in the cross-front surface stress diagnoses the vertical motion at the top of the MABL. These physics are at variance with some previously proposed SST frontal MABL models in which pressure adjustments determine the MABL convergence.

The SST-induced MABL convergence results in vertical motion that excites a stationary internal gravity wave in the free atmosphere, analogous to a mountain wave. For a 15 m s−1 cross-front wind, the gravity wave forced by an SST increase of 3°C over 200 km is comparable to that forced by an 80-m change in topography.

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Shusaku Sugimoto, Bo Qiu, and Niklas Schneider

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The Kanto district in Japan, including Tokyo, has 40 million inhabitants and its summer climate is characterized by high temperature and humidity. The Kuroshio that flows off the southern coast of the Kanto district has taken a large meander (LM) path since the summer of 2017 for the first time since the 2004–05 event. Recently developed satellite observations detected marked coastal warming off the Kanto–Tokai district during the LM path period. By conducting regional atmospheric model experiments, it is found that summertime coastal warming increases water vapor in the low-level atmosphere through enhanced evaporation from the ocean and influences near-surface winds via the vertical mixing effect over the warming area. These two changes induce an increase in water vapor in Kanto district, leading to an increase in downward longwave radiation at the surface and then surface warming through a local greenhouse effect. As a result, summer in Kanto district becomes increasingly hot and humid in LM years, with double the number of discomfort days compared with non-LM years. Our simulations and supplementary observational studies reveal the significant impacts of the LM-induced coastal warming on the summertime climate in Japan, which can exceed previously identified atmospheric teleconnections and climate patterns. Our results could improve weather and seasonal climate forecasts in this region.

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Thomas Kilpatrick, Niklas Schneider, and Emanuele Di Lorenzo

Abstract

The generation of variance by anomalous advection of a passive tracer in the thermocline is investigated using the example of density-compensated temperature and salinity anomalies, or spiciness. A coupled Markov model is developed in which wind stress curl forces the large-scale baroclinic ocean pressure that in turn controls the anomalous geostrophic advection of spiciness. The “double integration” of white noise atmospheric forcing by this Markov model results in a frequency (ω) spectrum of large-scale spiciness proportional to ω −4, so that spiciness variability is concentrated at low frequencies.

An eddy-permitting regional model hindcast of the northeast Pacific (1950–2007) confirms that time series of large-scale spiciness variability are exceptionally smooth, with frequency spectra ∝ ω −4 for frequencies greater than 0.2 cpy. At shorter spatial scales (wavelengths less than ∼500 km), the spiciness frequency spectrum is whitened by mesoscale eddies, but this eddy-forced variability can be filtered out by spatially averaging. Large-scale and long-term measurements are needed to observe the variance of spiciness or any other passive tracer subject to anomalous advection in the thermocline.

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