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Shineng Hu
,
Shang-Ping Xie
,
Richard Seager
, and
Mark A. Cane

Abstract

Tropical rainfall variations are of direct societal relevance and drive climate variations worldwide via teleconnections. The convective rainfall tends to occur when sea surface temperature (SST) exceeds a threshold, SSTthr, usually taken to be constant in time and space. We analyze 40-yr monthly observations and find that SSTthr varies by up to 4°C in space and with season. Based on local convective instability, we develop a quantitative theory that largely explains the SSTthr variations using the climatological state of the tropical atmosphere. Although it is often assumed that spatial variations of tropical upper-tropospheric temperature are small and can be neglected, it is shown that lower climatological values favor a lower SSTthr. Similarly, a small increase in climatological surface relative humidity also leads to a decrease in SSTthr, as does a lower climatological air–sea temperature difference. Consequently, efforts to understand and predict natural or forced variations in tropical rainfall must account for, in addition to SST, the temperatures aloft and the near-surface humidity and temperature and requires improved understanding of what controls their distribution in space and time.

Restricted access
Ayumu Miyamoto
,
Hisashi Nakamura
,
Shang-Ping Xie
,
Takafumi Miyasaka
, and
Yu Kosaka

Abstract

The northeastern Pacific climate system features an extensive low-cloud deck off California on the southeastern flank of the subtropical high that accompanies intense northeasterly trades and relatively low sea surface temperatures (SSTs). This study assesses climatological impacts of the low-cloud deck and their seasonal differences by regionally turning on and off the low-cloud radiative effect in a fully coupled atmosphere–ocean model. The simulations demonstrate that the cloud radiative effect causes a local SST decrease of up to 3°C on an annual average with the response extending southwestward with intensified trade winds, indicative of the wind–evaporation–SST (WES) feedback. This nonlocal wind response is strong in summer, when the SST decrease peaks due to increased shortwave cooling, and persists into autumn. In these seasons when the background SST is high, the lowered SST suppresses deep-convective precipitation that would otherwise occur in the absence of the low-cloud deck. The resultant anomalous diabatic cooling induces a surface anticyclonic response with the intensified trades that promote the WES feedback. Such seasonal enhancement of the atmospheric response does not occur without air–sea couplings. The enhanced trades accompany intensified upper-tropospheric westerlies, strengthening the vertical wind shear that, together with the lowered SST, acts to shield Hawaii from powerful hurricanes. On the basin scale, the anticyclonic surface wind response accelerates the North Pacific subtropical ocean gyre to speed up the Kuroshio by as much as 30%. SST thereby increases along the Kuroshio and its extension, intensifying upward turbulent heat fluxes from the ocean to increase precipitation.

Open access
Pengcheng Zhang
,
Shang-Ping Xie
,
Yu Kosaka
, and
Nicholas J. Lutsko

Abstract

The influence of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Asian monsoon region can persist through the post-ENSO summer, after the sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the tropical Pacific have dissipated. The long persistence of coherent post-ENSO anomalies is caused by a positive feedback due to interbasin ocean–atmospheric coupling, known as the Indo-western Pacific Ocean capacitor (IPOC) effect, although the feedback mechanism itself does not necessarily rely on the antecedence of ENSO events, suggesting the potential for substantial internal variability independent of ENSO. To investigate the respective role of ENSO forcing and non-ENSO internal variability, we conduct ensemble “forecast” experiments with a full-physics, globally coupled atmosphere–ocean model initialized from a multidecadal tropical Pacific pacemaker simulation. The leading mode of internal variability as represented by the forecast-ensemble spread resembles the post-ENSO IPOC, despite the absence of antecedent ENSO forcing by design. The persistent atmospheric and oceanic anomalies in the leading mode highlight the positive feedback mechanism in the internal variability. The large sample size afforded by the ensemble spread allows us to identify robust non-ENSO precursors of summer IPOC variability, including a cool SST patch over the tropical northwestern Pacific, a warming patch in the tropical North Atlantic, and downwelling oceanic Rossby waves in the tropical Indian Ocean south of the equator. The pathways by which the precursors develop into the summer IPOC mode and the implications for improved predictability are discussed.

Restricted access
Chuan-Yang Wang
,
Xiao-Tong Zheng
, and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is an important but not the only source of interannual variability over the Indo–western Pacific. Non-ENSO forced variability in the region has received recent attention because of the implications for rainy-season prediction. Using a 35-member CESM1 Large Ensemble (CESM-LE) and 30 CMIP6 models, this study shows that the ensemble means project intensified interannual variability for precipitation, low-level winds, and sea level pressure under global warming, associated with the enhanced large-scale anomalous anticyclone (AAC) over the tropical northwestern (NW) Pacific after the ENSO signal is removed. A decomposition based on the column water vapor budget reveals that enhanced precipitation variability is due to the increased background specific humidity. The resultant anomalous diabatic heating intensifies the AAC, which further strengthens the precipitation anomalies. Over the tropical NW Pacific, the wind-induced evaporative cooling on the southeastern flank of the AAC is countered by the increased shortwave radiation due to the strengthened precipitation reduction. Tropospheric temperature anomalies in the ensemble means show no significant change, suggesting no apparent change of the interbasin positive feedback between the AAC and northern Indian Ocean SST. Intermodel analysis based on CMIP6 reveals that models with a larger increase in ENSO-unrelated precipitation variability over the NW Pacific are associated with stronger background warming in the eastern equatorial Pacific, due to the modulated Walker and Hadley circulations.

Open access
Changlin Chen
,
Guihua Wang
,
Shang-Ping Xie
, and
Wei Liu

ABSTRACT

The Kuroshio and Gulf Stream, the subtropical western boundary currents of the North Pacific and North Atlantic, play important roles in meridional heat transport and ocean–atmosphere interaction processes. Using a multimodel ensemble of future projections, we show that a warmer climate intensifies the upper-layer Kuroshio, in contrast to the previously documented slowdown of the Gulf Stream. Our ocean general circulation model experiments show that the sea surface warming, not the wind change, is the dominant forcing that causes the upper-layer Kuroshio to intensify in a warming climate. Forced by the sea surface warming, ocean subduction and advection processes result in a stronger warming to the east of the Kuroshio than to the west, which increases the isopycnal slope across the Kuroshio, and hence intensifies the Kuroshio. In the North Atlantic, the Gulf Stream slows down as part of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) response to surface salinity decrease in the high latitudes under global warming. The distinct responses of the Gulf Stream and Kuroshio to climate warming are accompanied by different regional patterns of sea level rise. While the sea level rise accelerates along the northeastern U.S. coast as the AMOC weakens, it remains close to the global mean rate along the East Asian coast as the intensifying Kuroshio is associated with the enhanced sea level rise offshore in the North Pacific subtropical gyre.

Full access
Zesheng Chen
,
Yan Du
,
Zhiping Wen
,
Renguang Wu
, and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

The south tropical Indian Ocean (TIO) warms following a strong El Niño, affecting Indo-Pacific climate in early boreal summer. While much attention has been given to the southwest TIO where the mean thermocline is shallow, this study focuses on the subsequent warming in the southeast TIO, where the mean sea surface temperature (SST) is high and deep convection is strong in early summer. The southeast TIO warming induces an anomalous meridional circulation with descending (ascending) motion over the northeast (southeast) TIO. It further anchors a “C-shaped” surface wind anomaly pattern with easterlies (westerlies) in the northeast (southeast) TIO, causing a persistent northeast TIO warming via wind–evaporation–SST feedback. The southeast TIO warming lags the southwest TIO warming by about one season. Ocean wave dynamics play a key role in linking the southwest and southeast TIO warming. South of the equator, the El Niño–forced oceanic Rossby waves, which contribute to the southwest TIO warming, are reflected as eastward-propagating oceanic Kelvin waves along the equator on the western boundary. The Kelvin waves subsequently depress the thermocline and develop the southeast TIO warming.

Full access
Jun-Chao Yang
,
Xiaopei Lin
, and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

A transbasin mode (TBM) is identified as the leading mode of interannual surface wind variability over the Intra-Americas Seas across Central America based on empirical orthogonal function analysis. The TBM is associated with variability in Central American gap winds, most closely with the Papagayo jet but with considerable signals over the Gulfs of Tehuantepec and Panama. Although El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the main large-scale forcing, the TBM features a distinct seasonality due to sea level pressure (SLP) adjustments across the Pacific and Atlantic. During July–September, ENSO causes meridional SLP gradient anomalies across Central America, intensifying anomalous geostrophic winds funneling through Papagayo to form the TBM. During wintertime, ENSO peaks but imparts little anomalous SLP gradient across Central America with a weak projection on the TBM because of the competing effects of the Pacific–North American teleconnection and tropospheric Kelvin waves. Besides ENSO, tropical Atlantic sea surface temperature anomalies make a weak contribution to the TBM in boreal summer by strengthening the cross-basin gradient. ENSO and the Atlantic forcing constitute a cross-basin seesaw pattern in SLP, manifested as an anomalous Walker circulation across the tropical Americas. The TBM appears to be part of the low-level branch of the anomalous Walker circulation, which modulates Central American wind jets by orographic effect. This study highlights the seasonality of gap wind variability, and calls for further research into its influence on regional climate.

Full access
Chuan-Yang Wang
,
Shang-Ping Xie
, and
Yu Kosaka

Abstract

Regional ocean–atmospheric interactions in the summer tropical Indo–northwest Pacific region are investigated using a tropical Pacific Ocean–global atmosphere pacemaker experiment with a coupled ocean–atmospheric model (cPOGA) and a parallel atmosphere model simulation (aPOGA) forced with sea surface temperature (SST) variations from cPOGA. Whereas the ensemble mean features pronounced influences of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the ensemble spread represents internal variability unrelated to ENSO. By comparing the aPOGA and cPOGA, this study examines the effect of the ocean–atmosphere coupling on the ENSO-unrelated variability. In boreal summer, ocean–atmosphere coupling induces local positive feedback to enhance the variance and persistence of the sea level pressure and rainfall variability over the northwest Pacific and likewise induces local negative feedback to suppress the variance and persistence of the sea level pressure and rainfall variability over the north Indian Ocean. Anomalous surface heat fluxes induced by internal atmosphere variability cause SST to change, and SST anomalies feed back onto the atmosphere through atmospheric convection. The local feedback is sensitive to the background winds: positive under the mean easterlies and negative under the mean westerlies. In addition, north Indian Ocean SST anomalies reinforce the low-level anomalous circulation over the northwest Pacific through atmospheric Kelvin waves. This interbasin interaction, along with the local feedback, strengthens both the variance and persistence of atmospheric variability over the northwest Pacific. The response of the regional Indo–northwest Pacific mode to ENSO and influences on the Asian summer monsoon are discussed.

Free access
Yue Sun
,
Jing-Wu Liu
, and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

In winter, the warm water of the Gulf Stream anchors a salient precipitation band. Previous studies suggested a close relationship between the sea surface temperature (SST) front and the precipitation band through sea level pressure (SLP) adjustment. This study uses 17 years of high-resolution precipitation observations to reveal that the variation in wintertime precipitation over the Gulf Stream is related to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) at the interannual time scale. The moisture budget analysis shows that the climatological precipitation band is supported by the large evaporation from the Florida Current, mean flow, and synoptic moisture convergence within the boundary layer, with a negative contribution from mean-flow moisture advection by the prevailing northwesterlies. For interannual variability, by contrast, the negative contribution of mean-flow moisture advection significantly decreases due to anomalous southeasterlies west of the intensified Azores high at the positive NAO phase. The contributions from mean-flow moisture advection and mean and synoptic convergence vary greatly along the Gulf Stream. In addition, mean-flow and synoptic moisture convergences positively contribute to the precipitation band both in climatology and at the interannual time scale, indicative of a positive feedback between precipitation and boundary layer convergence. Our analysis suggests that the SLP adjustment mechanism across the SST front is still at work in interannual variability, and the variation of synoptic activities over the Gulf Stream plays an important role in modulating the frontal precipitation. By relating the frontal precipitation to the NAO, this study bridges small-scale air–sea interaction and large-scale atmospheric circulation.

Open access
Jing Ma
,
Shang-Ping Xie
,
Haiming Xu
,
Jiuwei Zhao
, and
Leying Zhang

Abstract

Using the ensemble hindcasts of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) coupled model for the period of 1980–2005, spatiotemporal evolution in the covariability of sea surface temperature (SST) and low-level winds in the ensemble mean and spread over the tropical Atlantic is investigated with the month-reliant singular value decomposition (SVD) method, which treats the variables in a given monthly sequence as one time step. The leading mode of the ensemble mean represents a coevolution of SST and winds over the tropical Atlantic associated with a phase transition of El Niño from the peak to decay phase, while the second mode is related to a phase transition from El Niño to La Niña, indicating a precursory role of the north tropical Atlantic (NTA) SST warming in La Niña development. The leading mode of ensemble spread in SST and winds further illustrates that an NTA SST anomaly acts as a precursor for El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). A north-tropical pathway for the delayed effect of the NTA SST anomaly on the subsequent ENSO event is identified; the NTA SST warming induces the subtropical northeast Pacific SST cooling through the modulation of a zonal–vertical circulation, setting off a North Pacific meridional mode (NPMM). The coupled SST–wind anomalies migrate southwestward to the central equatorial Pacific and eventually amplify into a La Niña event in the following months due to the equatorial Bjerknes feedback. Ensemble spread greatly increases the sample size and affords insights into the interbasin interactions between the tropical Atlantic and Pacific, as demonstrated here in the NTA SST impact on ENSO.

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