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Jo Ann Lysne
and
Clara Deser

Abstract

The spatial and temporal patterns of interannual temperature variability within the main thermocline (200–400-m depth) of the Pacific (30°S–60°N) during 1968–97 are documented in two observational datasets and an ocean general circulation model forced with observed winds and air temperatures. Analysis of the processes responsible for the subsurface temperature variance is used to verify the performance of the model and as a basis for assessing the realism of the two observational archives. The subsurface temperature variance is largest in the western portion of the basin, with maxima along the Kuroshio Current Extension and along the equatorward flanks of the subtropical gyres in both hemispheres. In the latter regions, approximately half of the temperature variability may be attributed to local wind-induced Ekman pumping fluctuations one season earlier. A contribution from westward-propagating Rossby waves is also evident in the band 10°–20°N. In contrast, subsurface temperature fluctuations along the Kuroshio Current Extension exhibit little relation to local Ekman pumping variations. Rather, they are linked to basin-scale wind stress curl changes ∼4 yr earlier. Similarities and differences between the two observational subsurface temperature archives are discussed.

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Clara Deser
and
Michael S. Timlin

Abstract

Large-scale atmosphere–ocean interaction over the North Atlantic and North Pacific during winter using a 14-yr record of weekly sea surface temperature and atmospheric circulation fields is examined. Singular Value Decomposition is used to quantify objectively the degree of coupling between the sea surface temperature and 500-mb geopotential height fields as a function of time lag, from −4 weeks to +4 weeks. The authors show that the air–sea coupling is strongest when 500-mb height leads sea surface temperature by 2–3 weeks—twice as strong as the simultaneous covariability and nearly four times as large as when sea surface temperature leads 500-mb height by a few weeks. The authors believe the 2–3-week timescale may be a reflection of high-frequency stochastic forcing by the atmosphere on the ocean mixed layer, in line with the theoretical model of Frankignoul and Hasselmann. Sensible and latent energy fluxes at the sea surface are shown to be an important component of the atmospheric forcing. The close spatial and temporal correspondence between the fluxes and SST tendencies on weekly timescales is a testament to the quality of the datasets.

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Young-Oh Kwon
and
Clara Deser

Abstract

North Pacific decadal oceanic and atmospheric variability is examined from a 650-yr control integration of the Community Climate System Model version 2. The dominant pattern of winter sea surface temperature (SST) variability is similar to the observed “Pacific decadal oscillation,” with maximum amplitude along the Kuroshio Extension. SST anomalies in this region exhibit significant spectral peaks at approximately 16 and 40 yr. Lateral geostrophic heat flux divergence, caused by a meridional shift of the Kuroshio Extension forced by basin-scale wind stress curl anomalies 3–5 yr earlier, is responsible for the decadal SST variability; local surface heat flux and Ekman heat flux divergence act as a damping and positive feedback, respectively. A simple linear Rossby wave model is invoked to explicitly demonstrate the link between the wind stress curl forcing and decadal variability in the Kuroshio Extension. The Rossby wave model not only successfully reproduces the two decadal spectral peaks, but also illustrates that only the low-frequency (>10-yr period) portion of the approximately white noise wind stress curl forcing is relevant. This model also demonstrates that the weak and insignificant decadal spectral peaks in the wind stress curl forcing are necessary for producing the corresponding strong and significant oceanic peaks in the Kuroshio Extension. The wind stress curl response to decadal SST anomalies in the Kuroshio Extension is similar in structure but opposite in sign and somewhat weaker than the wind stress curl forcing pattern. These results suggest that the simulated North Pacific decadal variability owes its existence to two-way ocean–atmosphere coupling.

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Clara Deser
and
Adam S. Phillips

Abstract

The relative roles of direct atmospheric radiative forcing (due to observed changes in well-mixed greenhouse gases, tropospheric and stratospheric ozone, sulfate and volcanic aerosols, and solar output) and observed sea surface temperature (SST) forcing of global December–February atmospheric circulation trends during the second half of the twentieth century are investigated by means of experiments with an atmospheric general circulation model, Community Atmospheric Model, version 3 (CAM3). The model experiments are conducted by specifying the observed time-varying SSTs and atmospheric radiative quantities individually and in combination. This approach allows the authors to isolate the direct impact of each type of forcing agent as well as to evaluate their combined effect and the degree to which their impacts are additive. CAM3 realistically simulates the global patterns of sea level pressure and 500-hPa geopotential height trends when both forcings are specified. SST forcing and direct atmospheric radiative forcing drive distinctive circulation responses that contribute about equally to the global pattern of circulation trends. These distinctive circulation responses are approximately additive and partially offsetting. Atmospheric radiative changes directly drive the strengthening and poleward shift of the midlatitude westerly winds in the Southern Hemisphere (and to a lesser extent may contribute to those over the Atlantic–Eurasian sector in the Northern Hemisphere), whereas SST trends (specifically those in the tropics) are responsible for the intensification of the Aleutian low and weakening of the tropical Walker circulation. Discrepancies between the atmospheric circulation trends simulated by CAM3 and Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3), a coupled model driven by the same atmospheric radiative forcing as CAM3, are traced to differences in their tropical SST trends: in particular, a 60% weaker warming of the tropical Indo-Pacific in the CCSM3 ensemble mean than in nature.

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Michael A. Alexander
and
Clara Deser

Abstract

In the early 1970s, Namias and Born speculated that ocean temperature anomalies created over the deep mixed layer in winter could be preserved in the summer thermocline and reappear at the surface in the following fall or winter. This hypothesis is examined using upper-ocean temperature observations and simulations with a mixed layer model. The data were collected at six ocean weather stations in the North Atlantic and North Pacific. Concurrent and lead-lag correlations are used to investigate temperature variations associated with the seasonal cycle in both the observations and the model simulations.

Concurrent correlations between the surface and subsurface temperature anomalies in both the data and the model indicate that the penetration of temperature anomalies into the ocean is closely tied to the seasonal cycle in mixed layer depth: high correlations extend to relatively deep (shallow) depths in winter (summer). Lead-lag correlations in both the data and the model, at some of the stations, indicate that temperature anomalies beneath the mixed layer in summer are associated with the temperature anomalies in the mixed layer in the previous winter/spring and following fall/winter but are unrelated or weakly opposed to the temperature anomalies in the mixed layer in summer. These results suggest that vertical mixing processes allow ocean temperature anomalies created over a deep mixed layer in winter to be preserved below the surface in summer and reappear at the surface in the following fall, confirming the Namias–Born hypothesis.

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Sungsu Park
,
Clara Deser
, and
Michael A. Alexander

Abstract

The surface heat flux response to underlying sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies (the surface heat flux feedback) is estimated using 42 yr (1956–97) of ship-derived monthly turbulent heat fluxes and 17 yr (1984–2000) of satellite-derived monthly radiative fluxes over the global oceans for individual seasons. Net surface heat flux feedback is generally negative (i.e., a damping of the underlying SST anomalies) over the global oceans, although there is considerable geographical and seasonal variation. Over the North Pacific Ocean, net surface heat flux feedback is dominated by the turbulent flux component, with maximum values (28 W m−2 K−1) in December–February and minimum values (5 W m−2 K−1) in May–July. These seasonal variations are due to changes in the strength of the climatological mean surface wind speed and the degree to which the near-surface air temperature and humidity adjust to the underlying SST anomalies. Similar features are observed over the extratropical North Atlantic Ocean with maximum (minimum) feedback values of approximately 33 W m−2 K−1 (9 W m−2 K−1) in December–February (June–August). Although the net surface heat flux feedback may be negative, individual components of the feedback can be positive depending on season and location. For example, over the midlatitude North Pacific Ocean during late spring to midsummer, the radiative flux feedback associated with marine boundary layer clouds and fog is positive, and results in a significant enhancement of the month-to-month persistence of SST anomalies, nearly doubling the SST anomaly decay time from 2.8 to 5.3 months in May–July.

Several regions are identified with net positive heat flux feedback: the tropical western North Atlantic Ocean during boreal winter, the Namibian stratocumulus deck off West Africa during boreal fall, and the Indian Ocean during boreal summer and fall. These positive feedbacks are mainly associated with the following atmospheric responses to positive SST anomalies: 1) reduced surface wind speed (positive turbulent heat flux feedback) over the tropical western North Atlantic and Indian Oceans, 2) reduced marine boundary layer stratocumulus cloud fraction (positive shortwave radiative flux feedback) over the Namibian stratocumulus deck, and 3) enhanced atmospheric water vapor (positive longwave radiative flux feedback) in the vicinity of the tropical deep convection region over the Indian Ocean that exceeds the negative shortwave radiative flux feedback associated with enhanced cloudiness.

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Christophe Cassou
,
Clara Deser
, and
Michael A. Alexander

Abstract

Extratropical SSTs can be influenced by the “reemergence mechanism,” whereby thermal anomalies in the deep winter mixed layer persist at depth through summer and are then reentrained into the mixed layer in the following winter. The impact of reemergence in the North Atlantic Ocean (NAO) upon the climate system is investigated using an atmospheric general circulation model coupled to a mixed layer ocean/thermodynamic sea ice model.

The dominant pattern of thermal anomalies below the mixed layer in summer in a 150-yr control integration is associated with the North Atlantic SST tripole forced by the NAO in the previous winter as indicated by singular value decomposition (SVD). To isolate the reemerging signal, two additional 60-member ensemble experiments were conducted in which temperature anomalies below 40 m obtained from the SVD analysis are added to or subtracted from the control integration. The reemerging signal, given by the mean difference between the two 60-member ensembles, causes the SST anomaly tripole to recur, beginning in fall, amplifying through January, and persisting through the following spring. The atmospheric response to these SST anomalies resembles the circulation that created them the previous winter but with reduced amplitude (10–20 m at 500 mb per °C), modestly enhancing the winter-to-winter persistence of the NAO. Changes in the transient eddies and their interactions with the mean flow contribute to the large-scale equivalent barotropic response throughout the troposphere. The latter can also be attributed to the change in occurrence of intrinsic weather regimes.

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Sungsu Park
,
Michael A. Alexander
, and
Clara Deser

Abstract

The influence of cloud radiative feedback, remote ENSO heat flux forcing, and oceanic entrainment on persisting North Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies is investigated using a stochastically forced ocean mixed layer model. The stochastic heat flux is estimated from an atmospheric general circulation model, the seasonally varying radiative feedback parameter and remote ENSO forcing are obtained from observations, and entrainment is derived from the observed mean seasonal cycle of ocean mixed layer depth. Persistence is examined via SST autocorrelations in the western, central, and subtropical eastern North Pacific and for the leading pattern of variability across the basin. The contribution of clouds, ENSO, and entrainment to SST persistence is evaluated by comparing simulations with and without each term.

The SST autocorrelation structure in the model closely resembles nature: the pattern correlation between the two is 0.87–0.9 in the three regions and for the basinwide analyses, and 0.35–0.66 after subtracting an exponential function representing the background damping resulting from air–sea heat fluxes. Positive radiative feedback enhances SST autocorrelations (∼0.1–0.3) from late spring to summer in the central and western Pacific and from late summer to fall in the subtropical eastern Pacific. The influence of the remote ENSO forcing on SST autocorrelation varies with season and location with a maximum impact on the correlation magnitude of 0.2–0.3. The winter-to-winter recurrence of higher autocorrelations is caused by entrainment, which generally suppresses SST variability but returns thermal anomalies sequestered beneath the mixed layer in summer back to the surface in the following fall/winter. This reemergence mechanism enhances SST autocorrelation by ∼0.3 at lags of 9–12 months from the previous winter in the western and central Pacific, but only slightly enhances autocorrelation (∼0.1) in the subtropical eastern Pacific.

The impact of clouds, ENSO, and entrainment on the autocorrelation structure of the basinwide SST anomaly pattern is similar to that in the western region. ENSO’s impact on the basinwide North Pacific SST autocorrelation in an atmospheric general circulation model coupled to an ocean mixed layer model with observed SSTs specified in the tropical Pacific is very similar to the results from the stochastic model developed here.

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Lantao Sun
,
Clara Deser
,
Isla Simpson
, and
Michael Sigmond

Abstract

Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the past four decades and climate models project a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean by the middle of this century, with attendant consequences for regional climate. However, modeling studies lack consensus on how the large-scale atmospheric circulation will respond to Arctic sea ice loss. In this study, the authors conduct a series of 200-member ensemble experiments with the Community Atmosphere Model version 6 (CAM6) to isolate the atmospheric response to past and future sea ice loss following the Polar Amplification Model Intercomparison Project (PAMIP) protocol. They find that the stratospheric polar vortex response is small compared to internal variability, which in turn influences the signal-to-noise ratio of the wintertime tropospheric circulation response to ice loss. In particular, a strong (weak) stratospheric polar vortex induces a positive (negative) tropospheric northern annular mode (and North Atlantic Oscillation), obscuring the forced component of the tropospheric response, even in 100-member averages. Stratospheric internal variability is closely tied to upward wave propagation from the troposphere and can be explained by linear wave interference between the anomalous and climatological planetary waves. Implications for the detection of recent observed trends and model realism are also presented. These results highlight the inherent uncertainty of the large-scale tropospheric circulation response to Arctic sea ice loss arising from stratospheric internal variability.

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Matthew T. Jenkins
,
Aiguo Dai
, and
Clara Deser

Abstract

The dynamic and thermodynamic mechanisms that link retreating sea ice to increased Arctic cloud amount and cloud water content are unclear. Using the fifth generation of the ECMWF Reanalysis (ERA5), the long-term changes between years 1950–79 and 1990–2019 in Arctic clouds are estimated along with their relationship to sea ice loss. A comparison of ERA5 to CERES satellite cloud fractions reveals that ERA5 simulates the seasonal cycle, variations, and changes of cloud fraction well over water surfaces during 2001–20. This suggests that ERA5 may reliably represent the cloud response to sea ice loss because melting sea ice exposes more water surfaces in the Arctic. Increases in ERA5 Arctic cloud fraction and water content are largest during October–March from ∼950 to 700 hPa over areas with significant (≥15%) sea ice loss. Further, regions with significant sea ice loss experience higher convective available potential energy (∼2–2.75 J kg−1), planetary boundary layer height (∼120–200 m), and near-surface specific humidity (∼0.25–0.40 g kg−1) and a greater reduction of the lower-tropospheric temperature inversion (∼3°–4°C) than regions with small (<15%) sea ice loss in autumn and winter. Areas with significant sea ice loss also show strengthened upward motion between 1000 and 700 hPa, enhanced horizontal convergence (divergence) of air, and decreased (increased) relative humidity from 1000 to 950 hPa (950–700 hPa) during the cold season. Analyses of moisture divergence, evaporation minus precipitation, and meridional moisture flux fields suggest that increased local surface water fluxes, rather than atmospheric motions, provide a key source of moisture for increased Arctic clouds over newly exposed water surfaces during October–March.

Significance Statement

Sea ice loss has been shown to be a primary contributor to Arctic warming. Despite the evidence linking large sea ice retreat to Arctic warming, some studies have suggested that enhanced downwelling longwave radiation associated with increased clouds and water vapor is the primary reason for Arctic amplification. However, it is unclear how sea ice loss is linked to changes in clouds and water vapor in the Arctic. Here, we investigate the relationship between Arctic sea ice loss and changes in clouds using the ERA5 dataset. Improved knowledge of the relationship between Arctic sea ice loss and changes in clouds will help further our understanding of the role of the cloud feedback in Arctic warming.

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