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John E. Walsh
,
William L. Chapman
, and
Timothy L. Shy

Abstract

Arctic sea level pressure data from the period of the Arctic Ocean Buoy Program show a significant decrease in the annual mean. In every calendar month, the annual mean is lower in the second half of the 1979–1994 period than in the first. The changes of the annual means are larger in the central Arctic than anywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere. The decreases are largest and statistically significant in the autumn and winter. The annual anomalies became negative relative to the 16-yr mean in the 1980s and have been negative in every year since 1988. Correspondingly, the mean anticyclone in the Arctic pressure field has weakened and the vorticity of the gradient wind field over the central Arctic Ocean has become more positive than at any time in the past several decades. The pressure decrease, which has been compensated by pressure increases over the subpolar oceans, implies that the wind forcing of sea ice contains an enhanced cyclonic component relative to earlier decades.

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Xin Tao
,
John E. Walsh
, and
William L. Chapman

Abstract

Simulations of Arctic temperatures by 19 general circulation models are examined as part of a diagnostic subproject of the Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP). The forcing of all the models by observed sea surface temperatures and sea ice from a 10-yr period (1979–1988) permits comparative evaluations of the model biases as well as the models’ simulations of the interannual variations contained in the observational data. The models capture the latitudinal and seasonal variability of surface air temperatures in the Arctic, although a cold bias of −3.3°C (std dev = 3.4°C) is apparent over northern Eurasia during spring, especially in the models that do not include vegetative masking of the high-albedo snow. The 19-model mean bias over northern North America is less than 2°C in all seasons. Over the Arctic Ocean, the spring temperatures generally have a warm bias that averages 3.0 (std dev = 2.9°C), although the bias is smaller in the models in which the prescribed albedo of sea ice is highest. For the summer season, correlations between simulated cloudiness and surface air temperatures are negative and statistically significant, but the corresponding correlations for the winter months are small and statistically insignificant The models without gravity wave drag are generally colder than the other models at the Arctic surface, especially during autumn.

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John E. Walsh
,
Stephen J. Vavrus
, and
William L. Chapman
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John R. Christy
,
Roy W. Spencer
,
William B. Norris
,
William D. Braswell
, and
David E. Parker

Abstract

Deep-layer temperatures derived from satellite-borne microwave sensors since 1979 are revised (version 5.0) to account for 1) a change from microwave sounding units (MSUs) to the advanced MSUs (AMSUs) and 2) an improved diurnal drift adjustment for tropospheric products. AMSU data, beginning in 1998, show characteristics indistinguishable from the earlier MSU products. MSU–AMSU error estimates are calculated through comparisons with radiosonde-simulated bulk temperatures for the low–middle troposphere (TLT), midtroposphere (TMT), and lower stratosphere (TLS.) Monthly (annual) standard errors for global mean anomalies of TLT satellite temperatures are estimated at 0.10°C (0.07°C). The TLT (TMT) trend for January 1979 to April 2002 is estimated as +0.06° (+0.02°) ±0.05°C decade–1 (95% confidence interval). Error estimates for TLS temperatures are less well characterized due to significant heterogeneities in the radiosonde data at high altitudes, though evidence is presented to suggest that since 1979 the trend is −0.51° ± 0.10°C decade–1.

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Feili Li
,
M. Susan Lozier
, and
William E. Johns

Abstract

A transbasin monitoring array from Labrador to Scotland was deployed in the summer of 2014 as part of the Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program (OSNAP). The aim of the observing system is to provide a multiyear continuous measure of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and the associated meridional heat and freshwater transports in the subpolar North Atlantic. Results from the array are expected to improve the understanding of the variability of the subpolar transports and the nature and degree of the AMOC’s latitudinal dependence. In this present work, the measurements of the OSNAP array are described and a suite of observing system simulation experiments in an eddy-permitting numerical model are used to assess how well these measurements will estimate the fluxes across the OSNAP section. The simulation experiments indicate that the OSNAP array and calculation methods will adequately capture the mean and temporal variability of the overturning circulation and of the heat and freshwater transports across the subpolar North Atlantic.

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MyeongHee Han
,
Igor Kamenkovich
,
Timour Radko
, and
William E. Johns

Abstract

This study aims to explore the relationship between air–sea density flux and isopycnal meridional overturning circulation (MOC), using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) model projections of the twenty-first-century climate. The focus is on the semiadiabatic component of MOC beneath the mixed layer; this component is described using the concept of the push–pull mode, which represents the combined effects of the adiabatic push into the deep ocean in the Northern Hemisphere and the pull out of the deep ocean in the Southern Hemisphere. The analysis based on the GFDL Climate Model version 2.1 (CM2.1) simulation demonstrates that the push–pull mode and the actual isopycnal MOC at the equator evolve similarly in the deep layers, with their maximum transports decreasing by 4–5 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) during years 2001–2100. In particular, the push–pull mode and actual isopycnal MOC are within approximately 10% of each other at the density layers heavier than 27.55 kg m−3, where the reduction in the MOC strength is the strongest. The decrease in the push–pull mode is caused by the direct contribution of the anomalous heat, rather than freshwater, surface fluxes. The agreement between the deep push–pull mode and MOC in the values of linear trend and variability on time scales longer than a decade suggests a largely adiabatic pole-to-pole mechanism for these changes. The robustness of the main conclusions is further explored in additional model simulations.

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Tiago Carrilho Biló
,
William E Johns
, and
Jian Zhao

Abstract

The dynamics of the deep recirculation offshore of the deep western boundary current (DWBC) between 15° and 30°N within the upper North Atlantic Deep Water layer (1000 ≤ z ≤ 3000 m) is investigated with two different eddy-resolving numerical simulations. Despite some differences in the recirculation cells, our assessment of the modeled deep isopycnal circulation patterns (36.77 ≤ σ 2 ≤ 37.06 kg m−3) shows that both simulations predict the DWBC flowing southward along the continental slope, while the so-called Abaco Gyre and two additional cyclonic cells recirculate waters northward in the interior. These cells are a few degrees wide, located along the DWBC path, and characterized by potential vorticity (PV) changes occurring along their mean streamlines. The analysis of the mean PV budget reveals that these changes result from the action of eddy forcing that tends to erode the PV horizontal gradients. The lack of a major upper-ocean boundary current within the study region, and the fact that the strongest eddy forcing is constrained within a few hundreds of kilometers of the western boundary, suggest that the DWBC is the primary source of eddy forcing. Finally, the eddies responsible for forcing the recirculation have dominant time scales between 100 and 300 days, which correspond to the primary observed variability scales of the DWBC transport at 26.5°N.

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Dongxiao Zhang
,
Michael J. McPhaden
, and
William E. Johns

Abstract

This study determines the mean pathways and volume transports in the pycnocline and surface layer for water flowing between the subtropical and tropical Atlantic Ocean, using potential vorticity, salinity, geostrophic flow maps on isopycnal surfaces, and surface drifter velocities. In both hemispheres, subducted salinity maximum waters flow into the Tropics in the pycnocline along both interior and western boundary pathways. The North Atlantic ventilating trajectories are confined to densities between about 23.2 and 26.0 σ θ , and only about 2 Sv (Sv ≡ 106 m3 s–1) of water reaches the Tropics through the interior pathway, whereas the western boundary contributes about 3 Sv to the equatorward thermocline flow. Flow on shallower surfaces of this density range originates from the central Atlantic near 40°W between 12° and 16°N whereas flow on the deeper surfaces originates from near 20°W just off the coast of Africa at higher latitudes. The pathways skirt around the potential vorticity barrier located under the intertropical convergence zone and reach their westernmost location at about 10°N. In the South Atlantic, about 10 Sv of thermocline water reaches the equator through the combination of interior (4 Sv) and western boundary (6 Sv) routes in a slightly higher density range than in the North Atlantic. Similar to the North Atlantic, the shallower layers originate in the central part of the basin (along 10°–30°W at 10°–15°S) and the deeper layers originate at higher latitudes from the eastern part of the basin. However, the ventilation pathways are spread over a much wider interior window in the Southern Hemisphere than in the Northern Hemisphere that at 6°S extends from 10°W to the western boundary. The equatorward convergent flows in the thermocline upwell into the surface layer and return to the subtropics through surface poleward divergence. As much as 70% of the tropical Atlantic upwelling into the surface layer is associated with these subtropical circulation cells, with the remainder contributed by the warm return flow of the large-scale thermohaline overturning circulation.

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Tamay M. Özgökmen
,
William E. Johns
,
Hartmut Peters
, and
Silvia Matt

Abstract

Given the motivation that overflow processes, which supply source waters for most of the deep and intermediate water masses in the ocean, pose significant numerical and dynamical challenges for ocean general circulation models, an intercomparison study is conducted between field data collected in the Red Sea overflow and a high-resolution, nonhydrostatic process model. The investigation is focused on the part of the outflow that flows along a long narrow channel, referred to as the “northern channel,” that naturally restricts motion in the lateral direction such that the use of a two-dimensional model provides a reasonable approximation to the dynamics. This channel carries about two-thirds of the total Red Sea overflow transport, after the overflow splits into two branches in the western Gulf of Aden. The evolution of the overflow in the numerical simulations can be characterized in two phases: the first phase is highly time dependent, during which the density front associated with the overflow propagates along the channel. The second phase corresponds to that of a statistically steady state. The primary accomplishment of this study is that the model adequately captures the general characteristics of the system: (i) the gradual thickening of the overflow with downstream distance, (ii) the advection of high salinity and temperature signals at the bottom along the channel with little dilution, and (iii) ambient water masses sandwiched between the overflow and surface mixed layer. To quantify mixing of the overflow with the ambient water masses, an entrainment parameter is determined from the transport increase along the slope and is expressed explicitly as a function of mean slope angle. Bulk Richardson numbers are estimated both from data and model and are related to the entrainment parameter. The range of entrainment parameter and its functional dependence on bulk Richardson number in this study are found to be in reasonable agreement with those reported from various laboratory experiments and that based on measurements of the Mediterranean overflow. The results reveal a complex dynamical interaction between shear-induced mixing and internal waves and illustrate the high computational and modeling requirements for numerical simulation of overflows to capture (at least in part) turbulent transports explicitly.

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Tamay M. Özgökmen
,
William E. Johns
,
Hartmut Peters
, and
Silvia Matt

Abstract

Given the motivation that overflow processes, which supply source waters for most of the deep and intermediate water masses in the ocean, pose significant numerical and dynamical challenges for ocean general circulation models, an intercomparison study is conducted between field data collected in the Red Sea overflow and a high-resolution, nonhydrostatic process model. The investigation is focused on the part of the outflow that flows along a long narrow channel, referred to as the “northern channel,” that naturally restricts motion in the lateral direction such that the use of a two-dimensional model provides a reasonable approximation to the dynamics. This channel carries about two-thirds of the total Red Sea overflow transport, after the overflow splits into two branches in the western Gulf of Aden. The evolution of the overflow in the numerical simulations can be characterized in two phases: the first phase is highly time dependent, during which the density front associated with the overflow propagates along the channel. The second phase corresponds to that of a statistically steady state. The primary accomplishment of this study is that the model adequately captures the general characteristics of the system: (i) the gradual thickening of the overflow with downstream distance, (ii) the advection of high salinity and temperature signals at the bottom along the channel with little dilution, and (iii) ambient water masses sandwiched between the overflow and surface mixed layer. To quantify mixing of the overflow with the ambient water masses, an entrainment parameter is determined from the transport increase along the slope and is expressed explicitly as a function of mean slope angle. Bulk Richardson numbers are estimated both from data and model and are related to the entrainment parameter. The range of entrainment parameter and its functional dependence on bulk Richardson number in this study are found to be in reasonable agreement with those reported from various laboratory experiments and that based on measurements of the Mediterranean overflow. The results reveal a complex dynamical interaction between shear-induced mixing and internal waves and illustrate the high computational and modeling requirements for numerical simulation of overflows to capture (at least in part) turbulent transports explicitly.

Full access