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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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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 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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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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Thomas Kilpatrick, Niklas Schneider, and Bo Qiu

Abstract

Satellite observations and modeling studies show that midlatitude SST fronts influence the marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL) and atmospheric circulation. Here, the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) mesoscale model is used to explore the atmospheric response to a midlatitude SST front in an idealized, dry, two-dimensional configuration, with a background wind oriented in the alongfront direction.

The SST front excites an alongfront wind anomaly in the free atmosphere, with peak intensity just above the MABL. This response is nearly quasigeostrophic, in contrast to the inertia–gravity wave response seen for cross-front background winds. The free-atmosphere response increases with the background wind , in contrast to previously proposed SST frontal MABL models.

The MABL winds are nearly in Ekman balance. However, a cross-front wind develops in the MABL as a result of friction and rotation such that the MABL cross-front Rossby number ε ≈ 0.2. The MABL vorticity balance and scaling arguments indicate that advection plays an important role in the MABL dynamics. Surface wind convergence shows poor agreement with MABL depth-integrated convergence, indicating that the MABL mixed-layer assumption may not be appropriate for SST frontal zones with moderate to strong surface winds.

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Bo Qiu, Niklas Schneider, and Shuiming Chen

Abstract

Air–sea coupled variability is investigated in this study by focusing on the observed sea surface temperature signals in the Kuroshio Extension (KE) region of 32°–38°N and 142°E–180°. In this region, both the oceanic circulation variability and the heat exchange variability across the air–sea interface are the largest in the midlatitude North Pacific. SST variability in the KE region has a dominant time scale of ∼10 yr and this decadal variation is caused largely by the regional, wind-induced sea surface height changes that represent the lateral migration and strengthening/weakening of the KE jet. The importance of the air–sea coupling in influencing KE jet is explored by dividing the large-scale wind forcing into those associated with the intrinsic atmospheric variability and those induced by the SST changes in the KE region. The latter signals are extracted from the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis data using the lagged correlation analysis. In the absence of the SST feedback, the intrinsic atmospheric forcing enhances the decadal and longer time-scale SST variance through oceanic advection but fails to capture the observed decadal spectral peak. When the SST feedback is present, a warm (cold) KE SST anomaly works to generate a positive (negative) wind stress curl in the eastern North Pacific basin, resulting in negative (positive) local sea surface height (SSH) anomalies through Ekman divergence (convergence). As these wind-forced SSH anomalies propagate into the KE region in the west, they shift the KE jet and alter the sign of the preexisting SST anomalies. Given the spatial pattern of the SST-induced wind stress curl forcing, the optimal coupling in the midlatitude North Pacific occurs at the period of ∼10 yr, slightly longer than the basin-crossing time of the baroclinic Rossby waves along the KE latitude.

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Shusaku Sugimoto, Bo Qiu, and Niklas Schneider

Abstract

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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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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Bo Qiu, Shuiming Chen, and Niklas Schneider

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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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Boyin Huang, Vikram M. Mehta, and Niklas Schneider

Abstract

In the study of decadal variations of the Pacific Ocean circulations and temperature, the role of anomalous net atmospheric freshwater [evaporation minus precipitation minus river runoff (EmP)] has received scant attention even though ocean salinity anomalies are long lived and can be expected to have more variance at low frequencies than at high frequencies. To explore the magnitude of salinity and temperature anomalies and their generation processes, the authors studied the response of the Pacific Ocean to idealized EmP anomalies in the Tropics and subtropics using an ocean general circulation model developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Simulations showed that salinity anomalies generated by the anomalous EmP were spread throughout the Pacific basin by mean flow advection. This redistribution of salinity anomalies caused adjustments of basin-scale ocean currents, which further resulted in basin-scale temperature anomalies due to changes in heat advection caused by anomalous currents. In this study, the response of the Pacific Ocean to magnitudes and locations of anomalous EmP was linear. When forced with a positive EmP anomaly in the subtropical North (South) Pacific, a cooling occurred in the western North (South) Pacific, which extended to the tropical and South (North) Pacific, and a warming occurred in the eastern North (South) Pacific. When forced with a negative EmP anomaly in the tropical Pacific, a warming occurred in the tropical Pacific and western North and South Pacific and a cooling occurred in the eastern North Pacific near 30°N and the South Pacific near 30°S. The temperature changes (0.2°C) in the tropical Pacific were associated with changes in the South Equatorial Current. The temperature changes (0.8°C) in the subtropical North and South Pacific were associated with changes in the subtropical gyres. The temperature anomalies propagated from the tropical Pacific to the subtropical North and South Pacific via equatorial divergent Ekman flows and poleward western boundary currents, and they propagated from the subtropical North and South Pacific to the western tropical Pacific via equatorward-propagating coastal Kelvin waves and to the eastern tropical Pacific via eastward-propagating equatorial Kelvin waves. The time scale of temperature response was typically much longer than that of salinity response because of slow adjustment times of ocean circulations. These results imply that the slow response of ocean temperature due to anomalous EmP in the Tropics and subtropics may play an important role in the Pacific decadal variability.

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