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Alicia R. Karspeck
,
Alexey Kaplan
, and
Mark A. Cane

Abstract

The seasonal and interannual predictability of ENSO variability in a version of the Zebiak–Cane coupled model is examined in a perturbation experiment. Instead of assuming that the model is “perfect,” it is assumed that a set of optimal initial conditions exists for the model. These states, obtained through a nonlinear minimization of the misfit between model trajectories and the observations, initiate model forecasts that correlate well with the observations. Realistic estimates of the observational error magnitudes and covariance structures of sea surface temperatures, zonal wind stress, and thermocline depth are used to generate ensembles of perturbations around these optimal initial states, and the error growth is examined. The error growth in response to subseasonal stochastic wind forcing is presented for comparison.

In general, from 1975 to 2002, the large-scale uncertainty in initial conditions leads to larger error growth than continuous stochastic forcing of the zonal wind stress fields. Forecast ensemble spread is shown to depend most on the calendar month at the end of the forecast rather than the initialization month, with the seasons of greatest spread corresponding to the seasons of greatest anomaly variance. It is also demonstrated that during years with negative (and rapidly decaying) Niño-3 SST anomalies (such as the time period following an El Niño event), there is a suppression of error growth. In years with large warm ENSO events, the ensemble spread is no larger than in moderately warm years. As a result, periods with high ENSO variance have greater potential prediction utility.

In the realistic range of observational error, the ensemble spread has more sensitivity to the initial error in the thermocline depth than to the sea surface temperature or wind stress errors. The thermocline depth uncertainty is the principal reason why initial condition uncertainties are more important than wind noise for ensemble spread.

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Alicia R. Karspeck
,
Richard Seager
, and
Mark A. Cane

Abstract

The Zebiak–Cane (ZC) model for simulation of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation is shown to be capable of producing sequences of variability that exhibit shifts in the time-mean state of the eastern equatorial Pacific that resemble observations of tropical Pacific decadal variability. The model's performance in predicting these shifts is compared to two naive forecasting strategies. It is found that the ZC model consistently outperforms the two naive forecasts that serve as a null hypothesis in assessing the significance of results. Forecasts initialized during anomalously warm and anomalously cold decades are shown to have the highest predictability.

These modeling results suggest that, to a moderate extent, the state of the tropical Pacific in one decade can predetermine its time-mean state in the following decade. However, even in this idealized context decadal forecasting skill is modest. Results are discussed in the context of their implications for the ongoing debate over the origin of decadal variations in the Pacific.

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Angela Cheska Siongco
,
Hsi-Yen Ma
,
Stephen A. Klein
,
Shaocheng Xie
,
Alicia R. Karspeck
,
Kevin Raeder
, and
Jeffrey L. Anderson

Abstract

An ensemble seasonal hindcast approach is used to investigate the development of the equatorial Pacific Ocean cold sea surface temperature (SST) bias and its characteristic annual cycle in the Community Earth System Model, version 1 (CESM1). In observations, eastern equatorial Pacific SSTs exhibit a warm phase during boreal spring and a cold phase during late boreal summer–autumn. The CESM1 climatology shows a cold bias during both warm and cold phases. In our hindcasts, the cold bias during the cold phase develops in less than 6 months, whereas the cold bias during the warm phase takes longer to emerge. The fast-developing cold-phase cold bias is associated with too-strong vertical advection and easterly wind stress over the eastern equatorial region. The antecedent boreal summer easterly wind anomalies also appear in atmosphere-only simulations, indicating that the errors are intrinsic to the atmosphere component. For the slower-developing warm-phase cold bias, we find that the too-cold SSTs over the equatorial region are associated with a slowly evolving upward displacement of subsurface ocean zonal currents and isotherms that can be traced to the ocean component.

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Hsi-Yen Ma
,
A. Cheska Siongco
,
Stephen A. Klein
,
Shaocheng Xie
,
Alicia R. Karspeck
,
Kevin Raeder
,
Jeffrey L. Anderson
,
Jiwoo Lee
,
Ben P. Kirtman
,
William J. Merryfield
,
Hiroyuki Murakami
, and
Joseph J. Tribbia

Abstract

The correspondence between mean sea surface temperature (SST) biases in retrospective seasonal forecasts (hindcasts) and long-term climate simulations from five global climate models is examined to diagnose the degree to which systematic SST biases develop on seasonal time scales. The hindcasts are from the North American Multimodel Ensemble, and the climate simulations are from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. The analysis suggests that most robust climatological SST biases begin to form within 6 months of a realistically initialized integration, although the growth rate varies with location, time, and model. In regions with large biases, interannual variability and ensemble spread is much smaller than the climatological bias. Additional ensemble hindcasts of the Community Earth System Model with a different initialization method suggest that initial conditions do matter for the initial bias growth, but the overall global bias patterns are similar after 6 months. A hindcast approach is more suitable to study biases over the tropics and subtropics than over the extratropics because of smaller initial biases and faster bias growth. The rapid emergence of SST biases makes it likely that fast processes with time scales shorter than the seasonal time scales in the atmosphere and upper ocean are responsible for a substantial part of the climatological SST biases. Studying the growth of biases may provide important clues to the causes and ultimately the amelioration of these biases. Further, initialized seasonal hindcasts can profitably be used in the development of high-resolution coupled ocean–atmosphere models.

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