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Narasimhan K. Larkin and D. E. Harrison

Abstract

Previous studies by the authors have described the composite global marine surface anomalies of ENSO warm (El Niño) events and cold (La Niña) events. Here the similarities and differences in these life cycles are examined. Qualitatively different behavior between warm events and cold events exists in the tropical Indian and Atlantic Oceans and in the extratropical Pacific. Even in the tropical Pacific statistically significantly different behavior is found in some variables for particular regions and phases of the life cycles. A single-mode regression analysis of the ENSO signal is done; the patterns are very similar to those of previously published ENSO EOF and regression analyses. The authors describe how the regression patterns obscure many of the interesting life cycles and life cycle differences of cold events and warm events. Most of the regression structures outside of the tropical Pacific are not statistically significant because of such differences. ENSO models should be evaluated against their ability to reproduce the observed cold event and warm event life cycles and not just single EOF or regression mode patterns.

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Andrew M. Chiodi and D. E. Harrison

Abstract

The unexpected halt of warm sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) growth in 2014 and development of a major El Niño in 2015 has drawn attention to our ability to understand and predict El Niño development. Wind stress–forced ocean model studies have satisfactorily reproduced observed equatorial Pacific SSTAs during periods when data return from the TAO/TRITON buoy network was high. Unfortunately, TAO/TRITON data return in 2014 was poor. To study 2014 SSTA development, the observed wind gaps must be filled. The hypothesis that subseasonal wind events provided the dominant driver of observed waveguide SSTA development in 2014 and 2015 is used along with the available buoy winds to construct an oceanic waveguide-wide surface stress field of westerly wind events (WWEs) and easterly wind surges (EWSs). It is found that the observed Niño-3.4 SSTA development in 2014 and 2015 can thereby be reproduced satisfactorily. Previous 2014 studies used other wind fields and reached differing conclusions about the importance of WWEs and EWSs. Experiment results herein help explain these inconsistencies, and clarify the relative importance of WWEs and EWSs. It is found that the springtime surplus of WWEs and summertime balance between WWEs and EWSs (yielding small net wind stress anomaly) accounts for the early development and midyear reversal of El Niño–like SSTA development in 2014. A strong abundance of WWEs in 2015 accounts for the rapid SSTA warming observed then. Accurately forecasting equatorial Pacific SSTA in years like 2014 and 2015 may require learning to predict WWE and EWS occurrence characteristics.

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D. E. Harrison and Gabriel A. Vecchi

Abstract

Based on examination of 10 yr of 10-m winds and wind anomalies from European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECWMF) analysis, definitions for westerly wind events (WWEs) of eight different types are proposed. The authors construct a composite for each type of event, show that a simple propagating Gaussian model satisfactorily describes the evolution of zonal wind anomaly for each type of event, and determine the scales of each composite event by fitting the model to each composite. The authors discuss the WWEs that occurred during the Tropical Oceans Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment (TOGA COARE) intensive observing period (IOP) and show the extent to which these composite events are able to reproduce the major westerly wind features of the IOP. The frequency of occurrence of each type of WWE for each year of this record and by calendar month are described; the authors find several types of events are negatively correlated with the annual mean troup Southern Oscillation index (SOI), and that the stronger WWEs often have a statistically significant seasonality. Several instances of widespread westerly wind anomaly are identified and described, but these “mega”-WWEs have few features in common. Although the authors’ composites underestimate the peak amplitude of many WWEs and cannot always accurately represent the time evolution of each WWE, the authors believe that they offer a useful framework for representing the sort of westerly wind variability that occurs in the western and central tropical Pacific and can provide a basis for further study of the importance of such winds in the climatological and interannual variability of this part of the World Ocean.

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D. E. Harrison and Andrew M. Chiodi

Abstract

El Niño and La Niña seasonal weather anomaly associations provide a useful basis for winter forecasting over the North American regions where they are sufficiently strong in amplitude and consistent in character from one event to another. When the associations during La Niña are different than El Niño, however, the obvious quasi-linear-statistical approach to modeling them has serious shortcomings. The linear approach of L’Heureux et al. is critiqued here based on observed land surface temperature and tropospheric circulation associations over North America. The La Niña associations are quite different in pattern from their El Niño counterparts. The El Niño associations dominate the statistics. This causes the linear approach to produce results that are inconsistent with the observed La Niña–averaged associations. Further, nearly all the useful North American associations have been contributed by the subset of El Niño and La Niña years that are identifiable by an outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) El Niño index and a distinct OLR La Niña index. The remaining “non-OLR events” exhibit winter weather anomalies with large event-to-event variability and contribute very little statistical utility to the composites. The result is that the linear analysis framework is sufficiently unable to fit the observations as to question its utility for studying La Niña and El Niño seasonal temperature and atmospheric circulation relationships. An OLR-event based approach that treats La Niña and El Niño separately is significantly more consistent with, and offers an improved statistical model for, the observed relationships.

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D. E. Harrison, B. S. Giese, and E. S. Sarachik

Abstract

Four different datasets of monthly mean new-equatorial Pacific sea surface temperature for 1982–83 are compared, and the space-time regions for which there was consensus that cooling or warming took place, are determined. There was consensus that warming took place east of the date line, averaged over the period July-December 1982, and that the warming progressed eastward from the central Pacific. There was also consensus that weak cooling took place in April 1983, and that substantial cooling occurred in June-July 1983, generally over the central and eastern Pacific. However, the analyses tend to agree on the sign of SST change only in periods of cooling or warming in excess of 1°C/month; quantitative agreement at the level of 0.5°C/month or better is almost never found.

SST changes in five ocean-circulation model hindcasts of the 1982–83 period (differing only in that each used a different analyzed monthly mean surface wind stress field to drive the ocean), are compared with the observations and with each other. There is agreement that net warming occurred in the July-December 1982 period and cooling in mid-1983. The heat budgets of these experiments indicate that the major model central Pacific warmings occurred primarily from anomalous eastward surface advection of warm water. Further, east zonal advection remains significant but a diminished cooling tendency from meridional advection can also be important; different hindcasts differ on the relative importance of these terms. Surface heat flux changes do not contribute to the warmings. The reduced cooling tendency from meridional advection is consistent with diminished surface Ekman divergence, suggesting that southward transport of warm north equatorial counter current water was not a major factor in the model warmings. The hindcasts do not agree on the relative importance of local or remote forcing of the eastward surface currents; while there is clear evidence of remote forcing in some hindcasts in particular regions, local forcing is also often significant. The main 1983 midocean cooling began because of increased vertical advection of cool water; but once cooling began horizontal advection often contributed. Further east, where the easterlies generally return later than they do in midocean, upwelling and horizontal advection all can be important. Again no model consensus exists concerning the details of SST evolution.

Because the observations do not agree on the sign of SST change during much of the 1982–83 period, improved SST data is needed in order to document the behavior of the ocean through future ENSO periods. Better forcing data will be needed to carry out improved ocean-model validation studies, and to explore the mechanisms likely responsible for SST change through entire ENSO cycles.

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Andrew M. Chiodi, D. E. Harrison, and Gabriel A. Vecchi

Abstract

Westerly wind events (WWEs) have previously been shown to initiate equatorial Pacific waveguide warming. The relationship between WWEs and Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) activity, as well as the role of MJO events in initiating waveguide warming, is reconsidered here over the 1986–2010 period. WWEs are identified in observations of near-surface zonal winds using an objective scheme. MJO events are defined using a widely used index, and 64 are identified that occur when the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is in its neutral state. Of these MJO events, 43 have one or more embedded WWEs and 21 do not. The evolution of sea surface temperature anomaly over the equatorial Pacific waveguide following the westerly surface wind phase of the MJO over the western equatorial Pacific is examined. Waveguide warming is found for the MJO with WWE events in similar magnitudes as following the WWEs not embedded in an MJO. There is very little statistically significant waveguide warming following MJO events that do not contain an embedded WWE. The observed SST anomaly changes are well reproduced in an ocean general circulation model forced with the respective composite wind stress anomalies. Further, it is found that the occurrence of an MJO event does not significantly affect the likelihood that a WWE will occur. These results extend and confirm the earlier results of Vecchi with a near doubling of the period of study. It is suggested that understanding the sources and predictability of tropical Pacific westerly wind events remains essential to improving predictions of the onset of El Niño events.

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William S. Kessler, M. C. Spillane, Michael J. McPhaden, and D. E. Harrison

Abstract

The highly temporally resolved time series from the Tropical Atmosphere-Ocean moored buoy array are used to evaluate the scales of thermal variability in the upper equatorial Pacific. The TAO array consists of nearly 70 deep-ocean moorings arranged nominally 15° longitude and 2°–3° latitude apart across the equatorial Pacific. The bulk of the data from the array consists of daily averages telemetered in real time, with some records up to 15 years long. However, at several sites more finely resolved data exist, in some cases with resolution of 1 minute. These data form the basis for spectral decomposition spanning virtually all scales of variability from the Brunt-Väiälä frequency to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation timescale. The spectra are used to define the signal to noise ratio as a function of sample rate and frequency, and to investigate the effects of aliasing that results from sparser sampling, such as ship-based observational techniques. The results show that the signal to noise ratio is larger in the east, mostly because the low-frequency signals are larger there. The noise level for SST varies by as much as a factor of 10 among the locations studied, while noise in thermocline depth is relatively more homogeneous over the region. In general, noise due to aliased high-frequency variability increases by roughly a factor of 10 as the sample rate decreases from daily to 100-day sampling. The highly resolved spectra suggest a somewhat more optimistic estimate of overall signal-to-noise ratios for typical ship of opportunity (VOS) XBT sampling (generally about 2) than had been found in previous studies using sparser data. Time scales were estimated for various filtered versions of the time series by integration of the autocorrelation functions. For high-passed data (periods longer than about 150 days removed), the timescale is about 5 days for both surface and subsurface temperatures everywhere in the region. Conversely, for low-passed data (the annual cycle and periods shorter than 150 days removed), the timescale is roughly 100 days. Horizontal space scales were estimated from cross-correlations among the buoys. Zonal scales of low-frequency SST variations along the equator were half the width of the Pacific, larger than those of thermocline depth (about 30°–40° longitude). In the cast, meridional scales of low-frequency SST were large (greater than about 15° latitude), associated with the coherent waxing and waning of the equatorial cold tongue, whereas in the west these scales were shorter. Thermocline depth variations had meridional scales associated with the equatorial waves, particularly in the east. Spatial scale estimates reported here are generally consistent with those found from the VOS datasets when the ENSO signals in the records of each dataset are taken into account. However, if signals with periods of 1 to 2 months are to be properly sampled, then sampling scales of 1°–2° latitude by 8°–10° longitude, with a 5-day timescale, are needed.

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G. L. Potter, R. D. Cess, P. Minnis, E. F. Harrison, and V. Ramanathan

Abstract

This study addresses two aspects of the planetary albedo's diurnal cycle, the first of which refers to directional models of the planetary albodo. It is found that even for clear regions there appear to be deficiencies in our knowledge of how to model this quantity. Over land surfaces, for example, Nimbus-7 data for the directional planetary albedo compare best with model calculations for which a Lambertian surface is assumed, despite ample evidence that the albedo of land surfaces is dependent upon solar zenith angle. Similarly, over ocean surfaces both GOES and Nimbus-7 data produce a weaker dependence of the planetary albedo upon solar zenith angle than would be suggested by model calculations.

The second aspect of the study concerns a comparison of the diurnal amplitude factor, defined as the ratio of the diurnally averaged planetary albedo to that at noon, between two general circulation models (GCMs) and measurements made from a geostationary satellite (GOES). While these comparisons indicate reasonable consistency between the GCMs and the satellite measurements, this is due in part to compensating differences, such as an underestimate in cloud amount by a GCM being compensated for by a corresponding underestimate of the diurnal amplitude factor for overcast regions. The comparisons further underscore difficulties associated with converting local-time albedo measurements, as made from sun-synchronous satellites, to diurnally averaged albedos.

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S. P. Harrison, D. Jolly, F. Laarif, A. Abe-Ouchi, B. Dong, K. Herterich, C. Hewitt, S. Joussaume, J. E. Kutzbach, J. Mitchell, N. de Noblet, and P. Valdes

Abstract

The response of ten atmospheric general circulation models to orbital forcing at 6 kyr BP has been investigated using the BIOME model, which predicts equilibrium vegetation distribution, as a diagnostic. Several common features emerge: (a) reduced tropical rain forest as a consequence of increased aridity in the equatorial zone, (b) expansion of moisture-demanding vegetation in the Old World subtropics as a consequence of the expansion of the Afro–Asian monsoon, (c) an increase in warm grass/shrub in the Northern Hemisphere continental interiors in response to warming and enhanced aridity, and (d) a northward shift in the tundra–forest boundary in response to a warmer growing season at high northern latitudes. These broadscale features are consistent from model to model, but there are differences in their expression at a regional scale. Vegetation changes associated with monsoon enhancement and high-latitude summer warming are consistent with palaeoenvironmental observations, but the simulated shifts in vegetation belts are too small in both cases. Vegetation changes due to warmer and more arid conditions in the midcontinents of the Northern Hemisphere are consistent with palaeoenvironmental data from North America, but data from Eurasia suggests conditions were wetter at 6 kyr BP than today. The models show quantitatively similar vegetation changes in the intertropical zone, and in the northern and southern extratropics. The small differences among models in the magnitude of the global vegetation response are not related to differences in global or zonal climate averages, but reflect differences in simulated regional features. Regional-scale analyses will therefore be necessary to identify the underlying causes of such differences among models.

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