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Yuko Okumura
and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

The Atlantic Niño, an equatorial zonal mode akin to the Pacific El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), is phase-locked to boreal summer when the equatorial easterly winds intensify and the thermocline shoals in the Gulf of Guinea. A suite of satellite and in situ observations reveals a new mode of tropical Atlantic variability that displays many characteristics of the zonal mode but instead peaks in November–December (ND). This new mode is found to be statistically independent from both the Atlantic Niño in the preceding summer and the Pacific ENSO. The origin of this ND zonal mode lies in an overlooked aspect of the seasonal cycle in the equatorial Atlantic.

In November the equatorial easterly winds intensify for the second time, increasing upwelling and lifting the thermocline in the Gulf of Guinea. An analysis of high-resolution climatological data shows that these dynamical changes induce a noticeable SST cooling in the central equatorial Atlantic. The shoaling thermocline and increased upwelling enhance the SST sensitivity to surface wind changes, reinvigorating equatorial ocean–atmosphere interaction. The resultant ocean–atmospheric anomalies are organized into patterns that give rise to positive mutual feedback as Bjerknes envisioned for the Pacific ENSO. This ND zonal mode significantly affects interannual rainfall variability in coastal Congo–Angola during its early rainy season. It tends to further evolve into a meridional mode in the following March–April, affecting precipitation in northeast Brazil. Thus it offers potential predictability for climate over the Atlantic sector in early boreal winter, a season for which local ocean–atmosphere variability was otherwise poorly understood.

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Takeaki Sampe
and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

Meiyu-baiu is the major rainy season from central China to Japan brought by a zonally elongated rainband from June to mid-July. Large-scale characteristics and environmental forcing of this important phenomenon are investigated based on a reanalysis dataset. The meiyu-baiu rainband is accompanied by a trough of sea level pressure, horizontal shears, and sharp moisture gradients near the surface, a westerly jet tilted northward with height, and large northeastward moisture transport from the south.

The analysis here reveals the westerly jet as an important culprit for meiyu-baiu. Along the rainband, mean ascending motion corresponds well with a band of warm horizontal temperature advection in the midtroposphere throughout summer. This adiabatic induction of upward motion originates from the advection of warm air by the westerlies from the eastern flank of the Tibetan Plateau. The ascending motion both induces convection and is enhanced by the resultant condensational heating. The westerly jet anchors the meiyu-baiu rainband also by steering transient eddies, creating periods conducive to convection through convective instability and adiabatic updrafts. Indeed, in meiyu-baiu, the probability distribution of convective instability shows large spreads and is strongly skewed, with a sharp cutoff on the unstable side resulting from the effective removal of instability by convection. Thus, active weather disturbances in the westerly waveguide explain a paradox that convection is active in the meiyu-baiu rainband while mean convective instability is significantly higher to the south over the subtropical North Pacific warm pool. In addition to the westerly jet, low-level southerly winds over eastern China between the heat low over Asia and the subtropical high pressure belt over the Pacific are another important environmental forcing for meiyu-baiu by supplying moisture. A conceptual model for meiyu-baiu is presented, and its implications for seasonal and interannual variations are discussed.

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Wenyu Zhou
and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

The Kuroshio–Oyashio Extension (KOE) is a region of energetic oceanic mesoscale eddies and vigorous air–sea interaction that can influence climate variability over the northwest Pacific and East Asia. General circulation models (GCMs) exhibit considerable differences in their simulated climatology around the KOE region. Specifically, there are substantial intermodel spreads in both sea surface temperature (SST) and the upper-level westerly jet. In this study, the cause for such large spreads is studied by analyzing 21 pairs of coupled and atmospheric GCMs from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5).

It is found that the intermodel spread of the climatological westerly jet among coupled GCMs is largely inherited from their atmospheric models rather than being due to their SST difference as previously thought. An anomalous equatorward shift in the simulated westerly jet can give rise to a cold SST bias around the KOE region as follows. The equatorward jet shift induces cyclonic surface wind anomalies over the North Pacific, which not only enhance the turbulent heat fluxes out of the ocean south of the KOE but also drive an anomalous cyclonic ocean circulation that brings colder (warmer) water into the north (south) of the KOE. The KOE region is consequently cooled due to both the atmospheric and oceanic effects. Such processes are demonstrated through idealized perturbation experiments using an ocean model.

The results herein point to reducing atmospheric model errors in the westerly jet as the way forward to improve the coupled simulations around the KOE region.

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Zhen-Qiang Zhou
and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

Climate models suffer from long-standing biases, including the double intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) problem and the excessive westward extension of the equatorial Pacific cold tongue. An atmospheric general circulation model is used to investigate how model biases in the mean state affect the projection of tropical climate change. The model is forced with a pattern of sea surface temperature (SST) increase derived from a coupled simulation of global warming but uses an SST climatology derived from either observations or a coupled historical simulation. The comparison of the experiments reveals that the climatological biases have important impacts on projected changes in the tropics. Specifically, during February–April when the climatological ITCZ displaces spuriously into the Southern Hemisphere, the model overestimates (underestimates) the projected rainfall increase in the warmer climate south (north) of the equator over the eastern Pacific. Furthermore, the global warming–induced Walker circulation slowdown is biased weak in the projection using coupled model climatology, suggesting that the projection of the reduced equatorial Pacific trade winds may also be underestimated. This is related to the bias that the climatological Walker circulation is too weak in the model, which is in turn due to a too-weak mean SST gradient in the zonal direction. The results highlight the importance of improving the climatological simulation for more reliable projections of regional climate change.

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Shang-Ping Xie
and
Zhen-Qiang Zhou

Abstract

The spatial structure of atmospheric anomalies associated with El Niño–Southern Oscillation varies with season because of the seasonal variations in sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly pattern and in the climatological basic state. The latter effect is demonstrated using an atmospheric model forced with a time-invariant pattern of El Niño warming over the equatorial Pacific. The seasonal modulation is most pronounced over the north Indian Ocean to northwest Pacific where the monsoonal winds vary from northeasterly in winter to southwesterly in summer. Specifically, the constant El Niño run captures the abrupt transition from a summer cyclonic to winter anticyclonic anomalous circulation over the northwest Pacific, in support of the combination mode idea that emphasizes nonlinear interactions of equatorial Pacific SST forcing and the climatological seasonal cycle. In post–El Niño summers when equatorial Pacific warming has dissipated, SST anomalies over the Indo–northwest Pacific Oceans dominate and anchor the coherent persisting anomalous anticyclonic circulation. A conceptual model is presented that incorporates the combination mode in the existing framework of regional Indo–western Pacific Ocean coupling.

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Wenyu Zhou
and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

A hierarchy of idealized monsoons with increased degrees of complexity is built using an intermediate model with simplified physics and idealized land–sea geometry. This monsoon hierarchy helps formulate a basic understanding about the distribution of the surface equivalent potential temperature θ e , which proves to provide a general guide on the monsoon rainfall. The zonally uniform monsoon in the simplest aquaplanet simulations is explained by a linearized model of the meridional distribution of θ e , which is driven by the seasonally varying solar insolation and damped by both the monsoon overturning circulation and the local negative feedback. The heat capacities of the surface and the atmosphere give rise to an intrinsic time scale that causes the monsoon migration to lag behind the sun and reduces the monsoon extent and intensity. Monsoons with a zonally confined continent can be understood based on the zonally uniform monsoon by considering the ocean influence on the land through the westerly jet advection, which reduces the monsoon extent and induces zonal asymmetry. Monsoon responses to more realistic factors such as land geometry, albedo, and ocean heat flux are consistently predicted by their impacts on the surface θ e distribution. The soil moisture effect, however, does not fully fit into the surface θ e argument and provides additional control on monsoon rainfall by inducing regional circulation and rainfall patterns.

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Jian Ma
and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

Precipitation change in response to global warming has profound impacts on environment for life but is highly uncertain. Effects of sea surface temperature (SST) warming on the response of rainfall and atmospheric overturning circulation are investigated using Coupled Model Intercomparison Project simulations. The SST warming is decomposed into a spatially uniform SST increase (SUSI) and deviations from it. The SST pattern effect is found to be important in explaining both the multimodel ensemble mean distribution and intermodel variability of rainfall change over tropical oceans. In the ensemble mean, the annual rainfall change follows a “warmer-get-wetter” pattern, increasing where the SST warming exceeds the tropical mean, and vice versa. Two SST patterns stand out both in the ensemble mean and intermodel variability: an equatorial peak anchoring a local precipitation increase and a meridional dipole mode with increased rainfall and weakened trade winds over the warmer hemisphere. These two modes of intermodel variability in SST account for one-third of intermodel spread in rainfall projection.

The SST patterns can explain up to four-fifths of the intermodel variability in intensity changes of overturning circulations. SUSI causes both the Hadley and Walker circulations to slow down, as articulated by previous studies. The weakening of the Walker circulation is robust across models as the SST pattern effect is weak. The Hadley circulation change, by contrast, is significantly affected by SST warming patterns. As a result, near and south of the equator, the Hadley circulation strength change is weak in the multimodel ensemble mean and subject to large intermodel variability due to the differences in SST warming patterns.

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Hiroki Tokinaga
and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

Ship-based measurements of sea surface wind speed display a spurious upward trend due to increases in anemometer height. To correct this bias, the authors constructed a new sea surface wind dataset from ship observations of wind speed and wind wave height archived in the International Comprehensive Ocean–Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS). The Wave- and Anemometer-based Sea surface Wind (WASWind) dataset is available for wind velocity and scalar speed at monthly resolution on a 4° × 4° longitude–latitude grid from 1950 to 2008. It substantially reduces the upward trend in wind speed through height correction for anemometer-measured winds, rejection of spurious Beaufort winds, and use of estimated winds from wind wave height. The reduced global upward trend is smallest among the existing global datasets of in situ observations and comparable with those of reanalysis products. Despite the significant reduction of globally averaged wind speed trend, WASWind features rich spatial structures in trend pattern, making it a valuable dataset for studies of climate changes on regional scales. Not only does the combination of ship winds and wind wave height successfully reproduce major modes of seasonal-to-decadal variability; its trend patterns are also physically consistent with sea level pressure (SLP) measurements. WASWind is in close agreement with wind changes in satellite measurements by the Special Sensor Microwave Imagers (SSM/Is) for the recent two decades. The agreement in trend pattern with such independent observations illustrates the utility of WASWind for climate trend analysis. An application to the South Asian summer monsoon is presented.

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Gen Li
and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

Errors of coupled general circulation models (CGCMs) limit their utility for climate prediction and projection. Origins of and feedback for tropical biases are investigated in the historical climate simulations of 18 CGCMs from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5), together with the available Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) simulations. Based on an intermodel empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis of tropical Pacific precipitation, the excessive equatorial Pacific cold tongue and double intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) stand out as the most prominent errors of the current generation of CGCMs. The comparison of CMIP–AMIP pairs enables us to identify whether a given type of errors originates from atmospheric models. The equatorial Pacific cold tongue bias is associated with deficient precipitation and surface easterly wind biases in the western half of the basin in CGCMs, but these errors are absent in atmosphere-only models, indicating that the errors arise from the interaction with the ocean via Bjerknes feedback. For the double ITCZ problem, excessive precipitation south of the equator correlates well with excessive downward solar radiation in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) midlatitudes, an error traced back to atmospheric model simulations of cloud during austral spring and summer. This extratropical forcing of the ITCZ displacements is mediated by tropical ocean–atmosphere interaction and is consistent with recent studies of ocean–atmospheric energy transport balance.

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Anna L. Merrifield
and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

This study documents and investigates biases in simulating summer surface air temperature (SAT) variability over the continental United States in the Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) experiment from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). Empirical orthogonal function (EOF) and multivariate regression analyses are used to assess the relative importance of circulation and the land surface feedback at setting summer SAT over a 30-yr period (1979–2008). Regions of high SAT variability are closely associated with midtropospheric highs, subsidence, and radiative heating accompanying clear-sky conditions. The land surface exerts a spatially variable influence on SAT through the sensible heat flux and is a second-order effect in the high-variability centers of action (COAs) in observational estimates. The majority of the AMIP models feature high SAT variability over the central United States, displaced south and/or west of observed COAs. SAT COAs in models tend to be concomitant and strongly coupled with regions of high sensible heat flux variability, suggesting that excessive land–atmosphere interaction in these models modulates U.S. summer SAT. In the central United States, models with climatological warm biases also feature less evapotranspiration than ERA-Interim but reasonably reproduce observed SAT variability in the region. Models that overestimate SAT variability tend to reproduce ERA-Interim SAT and evapotranspiration climatology. In light of potential model biases, this analysis calls for careful evaluation of the land–atmosphere interaction hot spot region identified in the central United States. Additionally, tropical sea surface temperatures play a role in forcing the leading EOF mode for summer SAT in models. This relationship is not apparent in observations.

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