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Niklas Schneider and Arthur J. Miller

Abstract

It is shown that wintertime sea surface temperature anomalies in the confluence region of the Kuroshio–Oyashio Currents in the western North Pacific can be skillfully predicted at lead times of up to 3 yr. The predictions are based on the history of the wind stress over the North Pacific and oceanic Rossby wave dynamics. The predictions may be exploitable in fisheries research and other ecological applications.

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Arthur J. Miller and John O. Roads

Abstract

A simplified coupled atmosphere-ocean model is used to explore the influence of evolving midlatitude sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies on the theoretical extended-range predictability of the atmospheric wintertime circulation in the Northern Hemisphere. After approximately two weeks, SST anomalies begin to significantly influence the overlying atmospheric flow, compared to flow over the climatological SST field. If the evolving sea surface temperature field is specified from model “observed” flows, then predictions of atmospheric time-averaged flow, for one month and longer averages, are significantly enhanced over predictions based on the atmospheric model with climatological SST. Predictions using the coupled model, however, are not significantly different from predictions using the atmospheric model with persistent SST anomalies, because SST anomalies are forced increasingly erroneously by atmospheric variables that rapidly lose their predictability.

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Jon M. Nese, Arthur J. Miller, and John A. Dutton

Abstract

A low-order moist general circulation model of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system is reexamined to determine the source of short-term predictability enhancement that occurs when an oceanic circulation is activated. The predictability enhancement is found to originate predominantly in thermodynamic processes involving changes in the mean hydrologic cycle of the model, which arise because the mean sea surface temperature is altered by the oceanic circulation. Thus, time-dependent sea surface temperature anomalies forced by anomalous geostrophic currents in the altered mean conditions do not contribute to the dominant ocean-atmosphere feed-back mechanism that causes the predictability enhancement in the model.

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Matthew J. Bunkers, James R. Miller Jr., and Arthur T. DeGaetano

Abstract

Spatially homogeneous climate regions were developed from long-term monthly temperature and precipitation data for a subset of the U.S. Northern Plains. Climate regions were initially defined using the “best” of three agglomerative and hierarchical clustering methodologies, then the clusters were objectively modified using a “pseudohierarchical” iterative improvement technique. Under the premise of hierarchical cluster analysis, once an object has been assigned to a cluster, it cannot later he reassigned to a different cluster, even if it is statistically desirable. The objective modification technique used herein is employed to compensate for this problem.

Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to reduce a 147-station dataset, consisting of 24 climatic variables averaged over the 1931–1990 period, to three orthogonal components. The new standardized mars, which explain 93% of the original dataset variance, were then subjected to the Ward's, average linkage, and complete linkage clustering methods. The average linkage method produced the most representative statistical results in identifying the climate regions. An iterative improvement technique was then utilized to test “border station” membership and to modify the climate region houses. Fifteen climate regions resulted from the clustering (with two single-station clusters in the Black Hills alone), although they age just one possible partitioning of the data. The within-cluster variability is generally the same for the 15 climate regions and the corresponding 21 National Climatic Data Center (NCM) climate divisions. However, since data within-cluster variability tends to decrease with increasing cluster number, this result favors the new climate regions. Additionally, the new climate regions am shown to be superior to the NCDC climate, divisions in wont of between-cluster variability. These results suggest that the NCDC climate divisions could be redefined, improving their climatic homogeneity.

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Arthur J. Miller, Daniel R. Cayan, and Warren B. White

Abstract

From the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, the main thermocline of the subarctic gyre of the North Pacific Ocean shoaled with temperatures at 200–400-m depth cooling by 1°–4°C over the region. The gyre-scale structure of the shoaling is quasi-stationary and intensified in the western part of the basin north of 30°N, suggesting concurrent changes in gyre-scale transport. A similar quasi-stationary cooling in the subtropical gyre south of 25°N is also observed but lags the subpolar change by several years. To explore the physics of these changes, the authors examine an ocean model forced by observed wind stress and heat flux anomalies from 1970–88 in which they find similar changes in gyre-scale thermocline structure. The model current fields reveal that the North Pacific subpolar and subtropical gyres strengthened by roughly 10% from the 1970s to the 1980s. The bulk of the eastward flow of the model Kuroshio–Oyashio Extension returned westward via the subpolar gyre circuit, while the subtropical gyre return flow along 20°N lags the subpolar changes by several years. The authors demonstrate that the model thermocline cooling and increased transport occurred in response to decadal-scale changes in basin-scale wind stress curl with the quasi-stationary oceanic response being in a time-dependent quasi-Sverdrup balance over much of the basin east of the date line. This wind stress curl driven response is quasi-stationary but occurs in conjunction with a propagating temperature anomaly associated with subduction in the central North Pacific that links the subpolar and subtropical gyre stationary changes and gives the appearance of circumgyre propagation. Different physics evidently controls the decadal subsurface temperature signal in different parts of the extratropical North Pacific.

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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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Hyodae Seo, Arthur J. Miller, and John O. Roads

Abstract

A regional coupled ocean–atmosphere model is introduced. It is designed to admit the air–sea feedbacks arising in the presence of an oceanic mesoscale eddy field. It consists of the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) and the Regional Spectral Model (RSM). Large-scale forcing is provided by NCEP/DOE reanalysis fields, which have physics consistent with the RSM. Coupling allows the sea surface temperature (SST) to influence the stability of the atmospheric boundary layer and, hence, the surface wind stress and heat flux fields. The system is denominated the Scripps Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Regional (SCOAR) Model.

The model is tested in three scenarios in the eastern Pacific Ocean sector: tropical instability waves of the eastern tropical Pacific, mesoscale eddies and fronts of the California Current System, and gap winds of the Central American coast. Recent observational evidence suggests air–sea interactions involving the oceanic mesoscale in these three regions. Evolving SST fronts are shown to drive an unambiguous response of the atmospheric boundary layer in the coupled model. This results in significant model anomalies of wind stress curl, wind stress divergence, surface heat flux, and precipitation that resemble the observations and substantiate the importance of ocean–atmosphere feedbacks involving the oceanic mesoscale.

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Daling Li Yi, Bolan Gan, Lixin Wu, and Arthur J. Miller

Abstract

Based on the Simple Ocean Data Assimilation (SODA) product and 37 models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) database, the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO) and its decadal generation mechanisms are evaluated by studying the second leading modes of North Pacific sea surface height (SSH) and sea level pressure (SLP) as well as their dynamical connections. It is found that 17 out of 37 models can well simulate the spatial pattern and decadal time scales (10–30 yr) of the NPGO mode, which resembles the observation-based SODA results. Dynamical connections between the oceanic mode (NPGO) and the atmospheric mode [North Pacific Oscillation (NPO)] are strongly evident in both SODA and the 17 models. In particular, about 30%–40% of the variance of the NPGO variability, which generally exhibits a preferred time scale, can be explained by the NPO variability, which has no preferred time scale in most models.

Two mechanisms of the decadal NPGO variability that had been proposed by previous studies are evaluated in SODA and the 17 models: 1) stochastic atmospheric forcing and oceanic spatial resonance and 2) low-frequency atmospheric teleconnections excited by the equatorial Pacific. Evaluation reveals that these two mechanisms are valid in SODA and two models (CNRM-CM5 and CNRM-CM5.2), whereas two models (CMCC-CM and CMCC-CMS) prefer the first mechanism and another two models (CMCC-CESM and IPSL-CM5B-LR) prefer the second mechanism. The other 11 models have no evident relations with the proposed two mechanisms, suggesting the need for a fundamental understanding of the decadal NPGO variability in the future.

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Matthew J. Bunkers, James R. Miller Jr., and Arthur T. DeGaetano

Abstract

Monthly total precipitation and mean temperature data records extending from the late nineteenth century to 1990 were collected for 147 stations in South Dakota, North Dakota, and portions of adjacent states and provinces. This region, defined as the Northern Plains region (NPR), was examined for patterns associated with the warm phase (ENSO) and the cold phase (LNSO) of the Southern Oscillation to elucidate some of the debate concerning a signal in this area. Based on a correlation analysis, the NPR was treated as having one spatial degree of freedom.

Using Monte Carlo simulations of the Student's t-test statistic, four seasons with significant changes in mean precipitation or temperature during either ENSO or LNSO were identified. A highly significant signal was evident during the ENSO April to October season for precipitation, where the mean precipitation increased 7.21 cm for the 23 events studied. Here 20 of these 23 ENSO events exhibited precipitation above the median value, and 14 of the 23 events were in the upper quartile. In contrast, a strong signal for decreased LNSO precipitation was noted where May to August precipitation averaged 3.91 cm lower during the 17 events, with similar significance values. Complementing the enhanced ENSO warm season precipitation, the August to October ten-iperatme decreased by 2.17°C, with a significant number of events in both the lowest half and lowest quartile. Finally, temperature averaged 4.67°C cooler during LNSO winters. These results will be useful for limited-season prediction of precipitation and temperature tendencies across the NPR.

It is interesting to note that the initial ENSO years did not reveal a significant temperature increase during the NPR winter, which is in contrast to similar studies. However, by slightly modifying the years that were classified as ENSO years, a significant winter temperature response was indicated. This suggests that there is a tendency for warmer NPR winters during ENSO; however, this was not statistically significant.

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Michael J. DeFlorio, David W. Pierce, Daniel R. Cayan, and Arthur J. Miller

Abstract

Water resources and management over the western United States are heavily impacted by both local climate variability and the teleconnected responses of precipitation to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO). In this work, regional precipitation patterns over the western United States and linkages to ENSO and the PDO are analyzed using output from a Community Climate System Model version 4 (CCSM4) preindustrial control run and observations, with emphasis on extreme precipitation events. CCSM4 produces realistic zonal gradients in precipitation intensity and duration over the western United States, with higher values on the windward side of the Cascade Mountains and Sierra Nevada and lower values on the leeward. Compared to its predecessor CCSM3, CCSM4 shows an improved teleconnected signal of both ENSO and the PDO to large-scale circulation patterns over the Pacific–North America region and also to the spatial pattern and other aspects of western U.S. precipitation. The so-called drizzle problem persists in CCSM4 but is significantly improved compared to CCSM3. In particular, it is found that CCSM4 has substantially less precipitation duration bias than is present in CCSM3. Both the overall and extreme intensity of wintertime precipitation over the western United States show statistically significant linkages with ENSO and PDO in CCSM4. This analysis provides a basis for future studies using greenhouse gas (GHG)-forced CCSM4 runs.

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