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Antonietta Capotondi and Michael A. Alexander

Abstract

Multicentury preindustrial control simulations from six of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) models are used to examine the relationship between low-frequency precipitation variations in the Great Plains (GP) region of the United States and global sea surface temperatures (SSTs). This study builds on previous work performed with atmospheric models forced by observed SSTs during the twentieth century and extends it to a coupled model context and longer time series. The climate models used in this study reproduce the precipitation climatology over the United States reasonably well, with maximum precipitation occurring in early summer, as observed. The modeled precipitation time series exhibit negative “decadal” anomalies, identified using a 5-yr running mean, of amplitude comparable to that of the twentieth-century droughts. It is found that low-frequency anomalies over the GP are part of a large-scale pattern of precipitation variations, characterized by anomalies of the same sign as in the GP region over Europe and southern South America and anomalies of opposite sign over northern South America, India, and Australia. The large-scale pattern of the precipitation anomalies is associated with global-scale atmospheric circulation changes; during wet periods in the GP, geopotential heights are raised in the tropics and high latitudes and lowered in the midlatitudes in most models, with the midlatitude jets displaced toward the equator in both hemispheres. Statistically significant correlations are found between the decadal precipitation anomalies in the GP region and tropical Pacific SSTs in all the models. The influence of other oceans (Indian and tropical and North Atlantic), which previous studies have identified as potentially important, appears to be model dependent.

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Antonietta Capotondi, Michael A. Alexander, Clara Deser, and Michael J. McPhaden

Abstract

The output from an ocean general circulation model driven by observed surface forcing (1958–97) is used to examine the evolution and relative timing of the different branches of the Pacific Subtropical–Tropical Cells (STCs) at both interannual and decadal time scales, with emphasis on the 1976–77 climate shift. The STCs consist of equatorward pycnocline transports in the ocean interior and in the western boundary current, equatorial upwelling, and poleward flow in the surface Ekman layer. The interior pycnocline transports exhibit a decreasing trend after the mid-1970s, in agreement with observational transport estimates, and are largely anticorrelated with both the Ekman transports and the boundary current transports at the same latitudes. The boundary current changes tend to compensate for the interior changes at both interannual and decadal time scales. The meridional transport convergence across 9°S and 9°N as well as the equatorial upwelling are strongly correlated with the changes in sea surface temperature (SST) in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific. However, meridional transport variations do not occur simultaneously at each longitude, so that to understand the phase relationship between transport and SST variations it is important to consider the baroclinic ocean adjustment through westward-propagating Rossby waves. The anticorrelation between boundary current changes and interior transport changes can also be understood in terms of the baroclinic adjustment process. In this simulation, the pycnocline transport variations appear to be primarily confined within the Tropics, with maxima around 10°S and 13°N, and related to the local wind forcing; a somewhat different perspective from previous studies that have emphasized the role of wind variations in the subtropics.

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Clara Deser, Adam S. Phillips, Robert A. Tomas, Yuko M. Okumura, Michael A. Alexander, Antonietta Capotondi, James D. Scott, Young-Oh Kwon, and Masamichi Ohba

Abstract

This study presents an overview of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon and Pacific decadal variability (PDV) simulated in a multicentury preindustrial control integration of the NCAR Community Climate System Model version 4 (CCSM4) at nominal 1° latitude–longitude resolution. Several aspects of ENSO are improved in CCSM4 compared to its predecessor CCSM3, including the lengthened period (3–6 yr), the larger range of amplitude and frequency of events, and the longer duration of La Niña compared to El Niño. However, the overall magnitude of ENSO in CCSM4 is overestimated by ~30%. The simulated ENSO exhibits characteristics consistent with the delayed/recharge oscillator paradigm, including correspondence between the lengthened period and increased latitudinal width of the anomalous equatorial zonal wind stress. Global seasonal atmospheric teleconnections with accompanying impacts on precipitation and temperature are generally well simulated, although the wintertime deepening of the Aleutian low erroneously persists into spring. The vertical structure of the upper-ocean temperature response to ENSO in the north and south Pacific displays a realistic seasonal evolution, with notable asymmetries between warm and cold events. The model shows evidence of atmospheric circulation precursors over the North Pacific associated with the “seasonal footprinting mechanism,” similar to observations. Simulated PDV exhibits a significant spectral peak around 15 yr, with generally realistic spatial pattern and magnitude. However, PDV linkages between the tropics and extratropics are weaker than observed.

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