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Boyin Huang, Vikram M. Mehta, and Niklas Schneider

Abstract

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 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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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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Tangdong Qu, Linlin Zhang, and Niklas Schneider

Abstract

Subtropical underwater (STUW) and its year-to-year variability in annual subduction rate are investigated using recently available Argo data in the North Atlantic. For the period of observation (2002–14), the mean annual subduction rate of the STUW is 7.3 ± 1.2 Sv (1 Sv = 106 m3 s−1) within the density range between 25.0 and 26.0 kg m−3. Once subducted, the STUW spreads in the subtropical gyre as a vertical salinity maximum. In the mean, the spatial changes in temperature and salinity of the STUW tend to compensate each other, and the density of the water mass remains rather stable near 25.5 kg m−3 in the southwestern part of the subtropical gyre. The annual subduction rate of the STUW varies from year to year, and most of this variability is due to lateral induction, which in turn is directly linked to the variability of the winter mixed layer depth. Through modulation of surface buoyancy, wind anomalies associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation are primarily responsible for this variability. Sea surface salinity anomalies in the formation region of the STUW are conveyed into the thermocline, but their westward propagation cannot be detected by the present data.

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Niklas Schneider, Tim Barnett, Mojib Latif, and Timothy Stockdale

Abstract

The physics of the Indo–Pacific warm pool are investigated using a coupled ocean atmosphere general circulation model. The model, developed at the Max-Planck-Institut fair Meteorologic, Hamburg, does not employ a flux correction and is used with atmospheres at T42 and T21 resolution. The simulations are compared with observations, and the model's mean and seasonal heat budgets and physics in the Indo–Pacific warm pool region are explored for the T42 resolution run.

Despite the simulation of a split intertropical convergence zone, and of a cold tongue that extends too far to the west, simulated warm pool temperatures are consistent with observations at T42 resolution, while the T21 resolution yields a cold bias of 1K. At T42 resolution the seasonal migration of the warm pool is reproduced reasonably well, as are the surface heat fluxes, winds, and clouds. However, simulated precipitation is too small compared to observations, implying that the surface density flux is dominated by fluxes of heat.

In the Pacific portion of the warm pool, the average net heat gain of the ocean amounts to 30–40 W m−2. In the northern branch, this heat gain is balanced by vertical advection, while in the southern branch, zonal, meridional, and vertical advection cool the ocean at approximately equal rates. At the equator, the surface heat flux is balanced by zonal and vertical advection and vertical mixing. The Indonesian and Indian Ocean portions of the warm pool receive from the atmosphere 30 and 50 W m−2, respectively, and this flux is balanced by vertical advection. The cooling due to vertical advection stems from numerical diffusion associated with the upstream scheme, the coarse vertical resolution of the ocean model, and near-inertial oscillations forced by high-frequency atmospheric variability.

The seasonal migration of the warm pool is largely a result of the seasonal variability of the net surface heat flux, horizontal and vertical advections are of secondary importance and increase the seasonal range of surface temperature slightly everywhere in the warm pool, with the exception of its southern branch. There, advection reduces the effect of the surface flux. The seasonal variability of the surface heat flux in turn is mainly determined by the shortwave radiation, but evaporation modifies the signal significantly. The annual cycles of reduction of solar radiation due to clouds and SST evolve independently from each other in the Pacific portion of the warm pool; that is, clouds have little impact on SST. In the Indian Ocean, however, clouds limit the maximum SST attained during the annual cycle.

In the western Pacific and Indonesian portion of the warm pool, penetrative shortwave radiation leads to convective mixing by heating deeper levels at a greater rate than the surface, which experiences heat losses due to turbulent and longwave heat fluxes. In the deeper levels, there is no mechanism to balance the heating due to penetrative radiation, except convection and its attendant mixing. In the Indian Ocean, however. the resulting vertical heating profile due to the surface fluxes decreases monotonically with depth and does not support convective mixing. Concurrently, the warm pool is shallower in the Indian Ocean compared with the western Pacific, indicating that convective mixing due to penetrative radiation is important in maintaining the vertical structure of the Pacific portion of the warm pool.

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Shoshiro Minobe, Mio Terada, Bo Qiu, and Niklas Schneider

Abstract

To better understand coastal sea level variability and changes, a theory that predicts sea levels along a curved western boundary using interior ocean sea level information is proposed. The western boundary sea level at a particular latitude is expressed by the sum of contributions from interior sea levels propagating onto the western boundary by long Rossby waves between that latitude and a higher latitude, and from the western boundary sea level at the higher latitude. This theory is examined by using a linear, reduced gravity model. A comparison between the theory and the model shows good agreement. A simple scaling law (or rule of thumb) derived from the theory provides a measure of the higher-latitude sea level and ocean interior sea level contributions. The theory is then tested using data from 34 climate models in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) for dynamic sea level changes between the end of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The theory captures the nearly uniform sea level rise from the Labrador Sea to New York City (NYC), with a reduction in the increase of sea level farther south toward the equator, qualitatively consistent with the CMIP5 multimodel ensemble, even though the theory underestimates the equatorward reduction rate. Along the South American east coast, the theory successfully reproduced the spatial pattern of the sea level change. The theory suggests a strong link between a sea level rise hot spot along the northeastern coast of North America and the sea level increase in the Labrador Sea, consistent with the result that rates of NYC sea level rise are highly correlated to those in the Labrador Sea in CMIP5 models.

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Karl Stein, Niklas Schneider, Axel Timmermann, and Fei-Fei Jin

Abstract

A simple model of ENSO is developed to examine the effects of the seasonally varying background state of the equatorial Pacific on the seasonal synchronization of ENSO event peaks. The model is based on the stochastically forced recharge oscillator, extended to include periodic variations of the two main model parameters, which represent ENSO’s growth rate and angular frequency. Idealized experiments show that the seasonal cycle of the growth rate parameter sets the seasonal cycle of ENSO variance; the inclusion of the time dependence of the angular frequency parameter has a negligible effect. Event peaks occur toward the end of the season with the most unstable growth rate.

Realistic values of the parameters are estimated from a linearized upper-ocean heat budget with output from a high-resolution general circulation model hindcast. Analysis of the hindcast output suggests that the damping by the mean flow field dominates the seasonal cycle of ENSO’s growth rate and, thereby, seasonal ENSO variance. The combination of advective, Ekman pumping, and thermocline feedbacks plays a secondary role and acts to enhance the seasonal cycle of the ENSO growth rate.

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Bo Qiu, Shuiming Chen, Niklas Schneider, Eitarou Oka, and Shusaku Sugimoto

Abstract

Decadal modulations of the Kuroshio Extension (KE) system between a stable and an unstable dynamic state in the western North Pacific have prevailed in the past three decades. This dominance of decadal variations is controlled by the negative feedback loop involving the wind-forced KE variability and its feedback onto the overlying extratropical storm tracks and the basin-scale surface wind field. The wind-forced decadal KE modulations were disrupted in August 2017 due to the development of the Kuroshio large meander south of Japan. By forcing the inflow KE paths northward and by avoiding overriding the shallow Izu Ridge, the Kuroshio large meander was able to compel the KE to change rapidly from the wind-forced, pre-existing, unstable state to a stable state. Following the large meander occurrence in late 2017, the stabilized KE change is found to affect the overlying storm tracks and the basin-scale wind field the same way as those generated by the wind-forced KE change prior to 2017. Given the consistent atmospheric response to both the large-meander-induced and wind-forced KE variability, we expect that the KE dynamic state will resume its decadal modulation after the phase reset relating to the 2017 large meander event.

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Bo Qiu, Shuiming Chen, Niklas Schneider, and Bunmei Taguchi

Abstract

Being the extension of a wind-driven western boundary current, the Kuroshio Extension (KE) has long been recognized as a turbulent current system rich in large-amplitude meanders and energetic pinched-off eddies. An important feature emerging from recent satellite altimeter measurements and eddy-resolving ocean model simulations is that the KE system exhibits well-defined decadal modulations between a stable and an unstable dynamic state. Here the authors show that the decadally modulating KE dynamic state can be effectively defined by the sea surface height (SSH) anomalies in the 31°–36°N, 140°–165°E region. By utilizing the SSH-based KE index from 1977 to 2012, they demonstrate that the time-varying KE dynamic state can be predicted at lead times of up to ~6 yr. This long-term predictability rests on two dynamic processes: 1) the oceanic adjustment is via baroclinic Rossby waves that carry interior wind-forced anomalies westward into the KE region and 2) the low-frequency KE variability influences the extratropical storm tracks and surface wind stress curl field across the North Pacific basin. By shifting poleward (equatorward) the storm tracks and the large-scale wind stress curl pattern during its stable (unstable) dynamic state, the KE variability induces a delayed negative feedback that can enhance the predictable SSH variance on the decadal time scales.

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Wilbert Weijer, Ernesto Muñoz, Niklas Schneider, and François Primeau

Abstract

A systematic study is presented of decadal climate variability in the North Pacific. In particular, the hypothesis is addressed that oceanic Rossby basin modes are responsible for enhanced energy at decadal and bidecadal time scales. To this end, a series of statistical analyses are performed on a 500-yr control integration of the Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3). In particular, a principal oscillation pattern (POP) analysis is performed to identify modal behavior in the subsurface pressure field.

It is found that the dominant energy of sea surface temperature (SST) variability at 25 yr (the model equivalent of the Pacific decadal oscillation) cannot be explained by the resonant excitation of an oceanic basin mode. However, significant energy in the subsurface pressure field at time scales of 17 and 10 yr appears to be related to internal ocean oscillations. However, these oscillations lack the characteristics of the classical basin modes, and must either be deformed beyond recognition by the background circulation and inhomogeneous stratification or have another dynamical origin altogether. The 17-yr oscillation projects onto the Pacific decadal oscillation and, if present in the real ocean, has the potential to enhance the predictability of low-frequency climate variability in the North Pacific.

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