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James T. Potemra and Niklas Schneider

Abstract

The relationship between 3- and 10-yr variability in Indian Ocean temperatures and Indonesian throughflow (ITF) volume transport is examined using results from a 300-yr integration of the coupled NCAR Parallel Climate Model (PCM). Correlation and regression analyses are used with physical reasoning to estimate the relative contributions of changes in ITF volume transport and Indian Ocean surface atmospheric forcing in determining low-frequency temperature variations in the Indian Ocean. In the PCM, low-frequency variations in ITF transport are small, 2 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1), and have a minimal impact on sea surface temperatures (SSTs). Most of the low-frequency variance in Indian Ocean temperature (rms > 0.5°C) occurs in the upper thermocline (75–100 m). These variations largely reflect concurrent atmospheric forcing; ITF-induced temperature variability at this depth is limited to the outflow region between Java and Australia extending westward along a band between 10° and 15°S.

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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

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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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Michael A. Spall and Niklas Schneider

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A simple analytic model is developed to represent the offshore decay of cold sea surface temperature (SST) signals that originate from wind-driven upwelling at a coastal boundary. The model couples an oceanic mixed layer to an atmospheric boundary layer through wind stress and air–sea heat exchange. The primary mechanism that controls SST is a balance between Ekman advection and air–sea exchange. The offshore penetration of the cold SST signal decays exponentially with a length scale that is the product of the ocean Ekman velocity and a time scale derived from the air–sea heat flux and the radiative balance in the atmospheric boundary layer. This cold SST signal imprints on the atmosphere in terms of both the boundary layer temperature and surface wind. Nonlinearities due to the feedback between SST and atmospheric wind, baroclinic instability, and thermal wind in the atmospheric boundary layer all slightly modify this linear theory. The decay scales diagnosed from two-dimensional and three-dimensional eddy-resolving numerical ocean models are in close agreement with the theory, demonstrating that the basic physics represented by the theory remain dominant even in these more complete systems. Analysis of climatological SST off the west coast of the United States also shows a decay of the cold SST anomaly with scale roughly in agreement with the theory.

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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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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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Boyin Huang, Vikram M. Mehta, and Niklas Schneider

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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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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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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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