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Yoshi N. Sasaki
,
Shoshiro Minobe
, and
Niklas Schneider

Abstract

This study examines interannual to decadal variability of the Kuroshio Extension (KE) jet using satellite altimeter observations from 1993 to 2010. The leading empirical orthogonal function (EOF) mode of sea level variability in the KE region represents the meridional shift of the KE jet, followed by its strength changes with a few month lag. This shift of the KE jet lags atmospheric fluctuations over the eastern North Pacific by about three years. Broad sea level anomalies (SLAs) emerge in the eastern North Pacific 3–4 years before the upstream KE jet shift, and propagate westward along the KE jet axis. In the course of the propagation, the meridional scale of the SLAs gradually narrows, and their amplitude increases. This westward propagation of SLAs with a speed of about 5 cm s−1 is attributed to the westward propagation of the meridional shift of the jet, consistent with the thin-jet theory, whose importance has been suggested by previous numerical studies. In addition, the westward-propagating signals tend to conserve their quasigeostrophic potential vorticity anomaly, which may explain the characteristic changes of SLAs during the propagation. After the westward-propagating signals of positive (negative) SLAs reach at the east coast of Japan, the upstream KE jet strengthens (weakens) associated with the strength changes of the northern and southern recirculation gyres. Interestingly, this strength change of the KE jet propagates eastward with a speed of about 6 cm s−1, suggesting an importance of advection by the current.

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Shota Katsura
,
Eitarou Oka
,
Bo Qiu
, and
Niklas Schneider

Abstract

Formation and subduction of the North Pacific Tropical Water (NPTW), its interannual variability, and its associated mechanisms were investigated by using gridded Argo-profiling float data and various surface flux data in 2003–11. The NPTW has two formation sites in the center of the North Pacific subtropical gyre, corresponding to two regional sea surface salinity maxima. Mixed layer salinity variations in these two NPTW formation sites were found to be significantly different. While seasonal variation was prominent in the eastern formation site, interannual variation was dominant in the western site. The mixed layer salinity variation in the eastern site was controlled mainly by evaporation, precipitation, and entrainment of fresher water below the mixed layer and was closely related to the seasonal variation of the mixed layer depth. In the western site, the effect of entrainment is small due to a small vertical difference in salinity across the mixed layer base, and excess evaporation over precipitation that tended to be balanced by eddy diffusion, whose strength varied interannually in association with the Pacific decadal oscillation. After subduction, denser NPTW that formed in the eastern site dissipated quickly, while the lighter one that formed in the western site was advected westward as far as the Philippine Sea, transmitting the interannual variation of salinity away from its formation region.

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Kettyah C. Chhak
,
Emanuele Di Lorenzo
,
Niklas Schneider
, and
Patrick F. Cummins

Abstract

An ocean model is used to examine and compare the forcing mechanisms and underlying ocean dynamics of two dominant modes of ocean variability in the northeast Pacific (NEP). The first mode is identified with the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) and accounts for the most variance in model sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and sea surface heights (SSHs). It is characterized by a monopole structure with a strong coherent signature along the coast. The second mode of variability is termed the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO). This mode accounts for the most variance in sea surface salinities (SSSs) in the model and in long-term observations. While the NPGO is related to the second EOF of the North Pacific SST anomalies (the Victoria mode), it is defined here in terms of SSH anomalies. The NPGO is characterized by a pronounced dipole structure corresponding to variations in the strengths of the eastern and central branches of the subpolar and subtropical gyres in the North Pacific. It is found that the PDO and NPGO modes are each tied to a specific atmospheric forcing pattern. The PDO is related to the overlying Aleutian low, while the NPGO is forced by the North Pacific Oscillation. The above-mentioned climate modes captured in the model hindcast are reflected in satellite altimeter data.

A budget reconstruction is used to study how the atmospheric forcing drives the SST and SSH anomalies. Results show that the basinwide SST and SSS anomaly patterns associated with each mode are shaped primarily by anomalous horizontal advection of mean surface temperature and salinity gradients (∇ T and ∇ S ) via anomalous surface Ekman currents. This suggests a direct link of these modes with atmospheric forcing and the mean ocean circulation. Smaller-scale patterns in various locations along the coast and in the Gulf of Alaska are, however, not resolved with the budget reconstructions. Vertical profiles of the PDO and NPGO indicate that the modes are strongest mainly in the upper ocean down to 250 m. The shallowness of the modes, the depth of the mean mixed layer, and wintertime temperature profile inversions contribute to the sensitivity of the budget analysis in the regions of reduced reconstruction skill.

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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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Jason C. Furtado
,
Emanuele Di Lorenzo
,
Niklas Schneider
, and
Nicholas A. Bond

Abstract

The two leading modes of North Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) and sea level pressure (SLP), as well as their connections to tropical variability, are explored in the 24 coupled climate models used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) to evaluate North Pacific decadal variability (NPDV) in the past [twentieth century; climate of the twentieth century (20C3M) scenario] and future [twenty-first century; Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) A1B scenario] climate. Results indicate that the two dominant modes of North Pacific oceanic variability, the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) and the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO), do not exhibit significant changes in their spatial and temporal characteristics under greenhouse warming. However, the ability of the models to capture the dynamics associated with the leading North Pacific oceanic modes, including their link to the corresponding atmospheric forcing patterns and to tropical variability, is questionable.

The temporal and spatial statistics of the North Pacific Ocean modes exhibit significant discrepancies from observations in their twentieth-century climate, most visibly for the second mode, which has significantly more low-frequency power and higher variance than in observations. The dynamical coupling between the North Pacific Ocean and atmosphere modes evident in the observations is very strong in the models for the first atmosphere–ocean coupled mode, which represents covariability of the PDO pattern with the Aleutian low (AL). However, the link for the second atmosphere–ocean coupled mode, describing covariability of an NPGO-like SST pattern with the North Pacific Oscillation (NPO), is not as clearly reproduced, with some models showing no relationship between the two.

Exploring the tropical Pacific–North Pacific teleconnections reveals more issues with the models. In contrast with observations, the atmospheric teleconnection excited by the El Niño–Southern Oscillation in the models does not project strongly on the AL–PDO coupled mode because of the displacement of the center of action of the AL in most models. Moreover, most models fail to show the observational connection between El Niño Modoki–central Pacific warming and NPO variability in the North Pacific. In fact, the atmospheric teleconnections associated with El Niño Modoki in some models have a significant projection on, and excite the AL–PDO coupled mode instead. Because of the known links between tropical Pacific variability and NPDV, these analyses demonstrate that focus on the North Pacific variability of climate models in isolation from tropical dynamics is likely to lead to an incomplete view, and inadequate prediction, of NPDV.

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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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Elena Yulaeva
,
Niklas Schneider
,
David W. Pierce
, and
Tim P. Barnett

Abstract

Potential predictability of low-frequency climate changes in the North Pacific depends on two main factors. The first is the sensitivity of the atmosphere to ocean-induced anomalies at the sea surface in midlatitudes. The second is the degree of teleconnectivity of the tropical low-frequency variability to midlatitudes. In contrast to the traditional approach of prescribing sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies, the response of a coupled atmospheric general circulation (CCM3)–mixed layer ocean model to oceanic perturbations of the mixed layer heat budget is examined. Since positive oceanic heat flux perturbations partially increase SST anomalies (locally), and partially are vented directly into the atmosphere, expressing boundary forcing on the atmosphere by prescribing upper-ocean heat flux anomalies allows for better understanding of the physical mechanism of low-frequency variability in midlatitudes. In the framework of this approach SST is considered to be a part of the adjustment of the coupled system rather than an external forcing. Wintertime model responses to mixed layer heat budget perturbations of up to 40 W m−2 in the Kuroshio extension region and in the tropical central Pacific show statistically significant anomalies of 500-mb geopotential height (Z500) in the midlatitudes. The response to the tropical forcing resembles the well-known Pacific–North American pattern, one of the leading modes of internal variability of the control run. The amplitude of the Z500 geopotential height reaches 40 m in the region of the Aleutian low. The response of Z500 to forcing in the Kuroshio Current extension region resembles the mixture of western Pacific and Pacific–North American patterns, the first two modes of the internal variability of the atmosphere. In midlatitudes this response is equivalent barotropic, with the maximum of 80 m at (60°N, 160°W). Examination of the vorticity and thermodynamic budgets reveals the crucial role of submonthly transient eddies in maintaining the anomalous circulation in the free atmosphere.

At the surface the response manifests itself in changes of surface temperature and the wind stress. The amplitude of response to the tropical forcing in the SST field at the Kuroshio Current extension region is up to 0.3 K (in absolute value) that is 2 times weaker than SST anomalies induced by midlatitude forcing of the same amplitude. In addition, the spatial structures of the responses in the SST field over the North Pacific are different. While tropical forcing induces SST anomalies in the central North Pacific, the midlatitude forcing causes SST anomalies off the east coast of Japan, in the Kuroshio–Oyashio extension region. Overall, remote tropical forcing appears to be effective in driving anomalies over the central North Pacific. This signal can be transported westward by the oceanic processes. Thus tropical forcing anomalies can serve as a precursor of the changes over the western North Pacific.

In the case of midlatitude forcing, the response in the wind stress field alters Ekman pumping in such a way that the expected change of the oceanic gyre, as measured by the Sverdrup transport, would counteract the prescribed forcing in the Kuroshio extension region, thus causing a negative feedback. This response is consistent with the hypothesis that quasi-oscillatory decadal climate variations in the North Pacific result from midlatitude ocean–atmosphere interaction.

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Niklas Schneider
,
Arthur J. Miller
, and
David W. Pierce

Abstract

A systematic analysis of North Pacific decadal variability in a full-physics coupled ocean–atmosphere model is executed. The model is an updated and improved version of the coupled model studied by Latif and Barnett. Evidence is sought for determining the details of the mechanism responsible for the enhanced variance of some variables at 20–30-yr timescales. The possible mechanisms include a midlatitude gyre ocean–atmosphere feedback loop, stochastic forcing, remote forcing, or sampling error.

Decadal variability in the model is expressed most prominently in anomalies of upper-ocean streamfunction, sea surface temperature (SST), and latent surface heat flux in the Kuroshio–Oyashio extension (KOE) region off Japan. The decadal signal off Japan is initiated by changes in strength and position of the Aleutian low. The atmospheric perturbations excite SST anomalies in the central and eastern North Pacific (with opposing signs and canonical structure). The atmospheric perturbations also change the Ekman pumping over the North Pacific, which excites equivalent barotropic Rossby waves that carry thermocline depth perturbations toward the west. This gyre adjustment results in a shift in the border between subtropical and subpolar gyres after about five years. This process consequently excites SST anomalies (bearing the same sign as the central North Pacific) in the KOE region. The SST anomalies are generated by subsurface temperature anomalies that are brought to the surface during winter by deep mixing and are damped by air–sea winter heat exchange (primarily latent heat flux). This forcing of the atmosphere by the ocean in the KOE region is associated with changes of winter precipitation over the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The polarity of SST and Ekman pumping is such that warm central and cool eastern Pacific anomalies are associated with a deep thermocline, a poleward shift of the border between subtropical and subpolar gyres, and warm SST anomalies and an increase of rain in the KOE region.

The preponderance of variance at decadal timescales in the KOE results from the integration of stochastic Ekman pumping along Rossby wave trajectories. The Ekman pumping is primarily due to atmospheric variability that expresses itself worldwide including in the tropical Pacific. A positive feedback between the coupled model KOE SST (driven by the ocean streamfunction) and North Pacific Ekman pumping is consistent with the enhanced variance of the coupled model at 20–30-yr periods. However, the time series are too short to unambiguously distinguish this positive feedback hypothesis from sampling variability. No evidence is found for a midlatitude gyre ocean–atmosphere delayed negative feedback loop.

Comparisons with available observations confirm the seasonality of the forcing, the up to 5-yr time lag between like-signed central North Pacific and KOE SST anomalies, and the associated damping of SST in the KOE region by the latent heat flux. The coupled model results also suggest that observed SST anomalies in the KOE region may be predictable from the history of the wind-stress curl over the North Pacific.

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Niklas Schneider
,
Arthur J. Miller
,
Michael A. Alexander
, and
Clara Deser

Abstract

Observations of oceanic temperature in the upper 400 m reveal decadal signals that propagate in the thermocline along lines of constant potential vorticity from the ventilation region in the central North Pacific to approximately 18°N in the western Pacific. The propagation path and speed are well described by the geostrophic mean circulation and by a model of the ventilated thermocline. The approximate southward speed of the thermal signal of 7 mm s−1 yields a transit time of approximately eight years. The thermal anomalies appear to be forced by perturbations of the mixed layer heat budget in the subduction region of the central North Pacific east of the date line. A warm pulse was generated in the central North Pacific by a series of mild winters from 1973 to 1976 and reached 18°N around 1982. After 1978 a succession of colder winters initiated a cold anomaly in the central North Pacific that propagated along a similar path and with a similar speed as the warm anomaly, then arrived in the western tropical Pacific at 18°N around 1991. Tropical Ekman pumping, rather than further propagation of the midlatitude signal, caused the subsequent spread into the equatorial western Pacific and an increase in amplitude. Historical data show that anomalous sea surface temperature in the equatorial central Pacific is correlated with tropical Ekman pumping while the correlation with thermal anomalies in the North Pacific eight years earlier is not significant. These results indicate no significant coupling in the Pacific of Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes and the equatorial region via advection of thermal anomalies along the oceanic thermocline.

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Emanuele Di Lorenzo
,
Arthur J. Miller
,
Niklas Schneider
, and
James C. McWilliams

Abstract

Long-term changes in the observed temperature and salinity along the southern California coast are studied using a four-dimensional space–time analysis of the 52-yr (1949–2000) California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) hydrography combined with a sensitivity analysis of an eddy-permitting primitive equation ocean model under various forcing scenarios. An overall warming trend of 1.3°C in the ocean surface, a deepening in the depth of the mean thermocline (18 m), and increased stratification between 1950 and 1999 are found to be primarily forced by large-scale decadal fluctuations in surface heat fluxes combined with horizontal advection by the mean currents. After 1998 the surface heat fluxes suggest the beginning of a period of cooling, consistent with colder observed ocean temperatures. Salinity changes are decoupled from temperature and appear to be controlled locally in the coastal ocean by horizontal advection by anomalous currents. A cooling trend of –0.5°C in SST is driven in the ocean model by the 50-yr NCEP wind reanalysis, which contains a positive trend in upwelling-favorable winds along the southern California coast. A net warming trend of +1°C in SST occurs, however, when the effects of observed surface heat fluxes are included as forcing functions in the model. Within 50–100 km of the coast, the ocean model simulations show that increased stratification/deepening of the thermocline associated with the warming reduces the efficiency of coastal upwelling in advecting subsurface waters to the ocean surface, counteracting any effects of the increased strength of the upwelling winds. Such a reduction in upwelling efficiency leads in the model to a freshening of surface coastal waters. Because salinity and nutrients at the coast have similar distributions this must reflect a reduction of the nutrient supply at the coast, which is manifestly important in explaining the observed decline in zooplankton concentration. The increased winds also drive an intensification of the mean currents of the southern California Current System (SCCS). Model mesoscale eddy variance significantly increases in recent decades in response to both the stronger upwelling winds and the warmer upper-ocean temperatures, suggesting that the stability properties of the SCCS have also changed.

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