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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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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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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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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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Michael A. Spall
and
Niklas Schneider

Abstract

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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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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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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Alexander Gershunov
,
Niklas Schneider
, and
Tim Barnett

Abstract

Running correlations between pairs of stochastic time series are typically characterized by low-frequency evolution. This simple result of sampling variability holds for climate time series but is not often recognized for being merely noise. As an example, this paper discusses the historical connection between El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and average Indian rainfall (AIR). Decades of strong correlation (∼−0.8) alternate with decades of insignificant correlation, and it is shown that this decadal modulation could be due solely to stochastic processes. In fact, the specific relationship between ENSO and AIR is significantly less variable on decadal timescales than should be expected from sampling variability alone.

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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
,
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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