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D. E. Harrison

Abstract

Several primitive-equation ocean general circulation model experiments have been carried out in order to explore the sensitivity of equatorial sea surface temperature (SST) results to uncertainty in the net surface heal flux (Q) imposed at the surface. Both climatological seasonal cycle experiments and hindcasts of the 1982/33 ENSO event are considered. It is found that regions of light winds, which typically reach values of SST in excess of 31°C using this ocean model and past Q parameterizations, attain more realistic SST values of 29°–30°C when Q is reduced by as little as 10 W m−2. Sensitivity in this regime is about 0.1–0.2°C (W m−2)−1 for low-frequency SST changes. In regions of easterly winds with their associated upwelling, horizontal advection, and stronger mixing, changes of Q in excess of 50 W m−2 produce SST changes typically of 0.7°C, for a sensitivity of about 0.02°C (W m−2)−1. These results apply equally well to the ENSO hindcasts and the seasonal cycle studies. The reasons for the large variation in sensitivity and the very large sensitivity under light winds are described. To the extent that these results are representative of oceanic conditions, very accurate Q information will be required for studies of the low-frequency variability of SST in light wind regions like the western Pacific; much less accurate fluxes appear needed for studies of comparable variability in upwelling regions.

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D. E. Harrison

Abstract

Using a version of the global surface marine observation historical data set, a new 1° spatial resolution global ocean surface wind stress climatology has been evaluated using the Large and Pond surface drag coefficient formulation. These new results are compared, after spatial smoothing, with those of Hellerman and Rosenstein, who used a different drag coefficient form. It is found that the new stresses are almost everywhere smaller than those of Hellerman and Rosenstein, often by 20%–30%, which is greater than the formal error estimates from their calculations. The stress differences show large-scale spatial structure, as would he expected given the spatial variation of the surface stability parameter and the known different wind variability regions. Basin zonally averaged Ekman transports are computed to provide perspective on the significance of the stress differences; annual mean differences can exceed 10 Sv (Sv = 106 m3 s−1) equatorward of 20° lat, but are smaller poleward. Wind stress curl and Sverdrup transport calculations provide a different perspective on the differences; particularly noticeable differences are found in the regions of the Gulf Stream and Kuroshio separation. Large annual variations in midlatitude wind stress curl suggest that study of the forced response at annual periods should be of interest.

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D. E. Harrison

Abstract

Multidecadel time series of surface winds from central tropical Pacific islands are used to compute trends in the trade winds between the end of WWII and 1985. Over this period, averaged over the whole region, there is no statistically significant trend in speed or zonal or meridional wind (or pseudostress). However, there is some tendency, within a few degrees of the equator, toward weakening of the easterlies and increased meridional flow toward the equator. Anomalous conditions subsequent to the 1972–73 ENSO event make a considerable contribution to the long-term trends. The period 1974–80 has been noted previously to have been anomalous, and trends over that period are sharply greater than those over the longer records.

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Mark Carson and D. E. Harrison

Abstract

There is great interest in World Ocean temperature trends, yet the historical global ocean database has very uneven coverage in space and time. Previous work on 50-yr upper ocean temperature trends from the NOAA ocean data archive is extended here. Trends at depths from 50 to 1000 m are examined, based on observations gridded over larger regions than in the earlier study. Despite the use of larger grid boxes, most of the ocean does not have significant 50-yr trends at the 90% confidence level (CL). In fact only 30% of the ocean at 50 m has 90% CL trends, and the percentage decreases significantly with increasing depth. As noted in the previous study, there is much spatial structure in 50-yr trends, with areas of strong warming and strong cooling. These trend results are compared with trends calculated from data interpolated to standard levels and from a highly horizontally interpolated version of the dataset that has been used in previous heat content trend studies. The regional trend results can differ substantially, even in the areas with statistically significant trends. Trends based on the more interpolated analyses show more warming. Together with major temporal and spatial sampling limitations, the previously described strong interdecadal and spatial variability of trends makes it very difficult to formally estimate uncertainty in World Ocean averages, but these results suggest that upper ocean heat content integrals and integral trends may be substantially more uncertain than has yet been acknowledged. Further exploration of uncertainties is needed.

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Mark Carson and D. E. Harrison

Abstract

Regional interdecadal variability, on subbasin to basin scales, is shown to be a robust feature of the post–World War II (WWII) historical temperature record, even after a recently proposed bias correction to XBT fall rates is applied. This study shows that the previously reported strong regional variability is generally unaffected by this correction, even though the interdecadal variability in the most recently published estimates of global ocean heat content is much reduced after a correction is applied. Following methods used in previous trend analysis work, estimates of interdecadal trends are calculated for individual regions of the global ocean where there are sufficient data. Spatial maps of temperature trends for the surface and three subsurface depths (50, 100, and 300 m) are presented, with both bias-corrected and uncorrected data trends at 100 and 300 m shown for comparison. In the upper two depths and at the surface, interdecadal variability is shown to be present and strong in most of the analysis regions. At 100 m, the differences between trends based on bias-corrected versus uncorrected data are small, and barely distinguishable for much of the ocean analyzed. There are more differences at 300 m between the two data treatments, but large-scale patterns are still present in the bias-corrected trends, especially where the trends are stronger.

Given the sampling issues discussed in previous works, the presence of strong interdecadal variability on smaller scales raises concerns that global interdecadal variability in the historical record still may not be properly resolved.

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D. E. Harrison and D. S. Luther

Abstract

Multidecadal time series of surface wind observations from tropical Pacific islands have been examined in order to investigate the space and time scales of variability. Climatological monthly means and variances are compared with comparable means and variances derived from ship observations; usually the means agree to within ∼1 m s−1 in speed and ∼10 degrees in direction. Annual and semiannual cycles differ in detail. Island zonal wind variances are often significantly larger, by up to 10 m2 s−2 near the equator between September and December; because of the spatial coherence of the island results, these discrepancies are believed to result from the poor high-frequency sampling typical of ship data. A substantial near-equatorial zonal wind variance maximum is shown to be related to ENSO period variability; excluding ENSO time periods leaves a relatively spatially uniform variance of ∼5 m2 s−2 over a broad region.

The frequency distribution of variance, derived from daily-averaged data, exhibits considerable geographical variation. Within a few degrees of the equator the most energetic zonal wind variability is found in a broad band extending from about 3- to 60-day periods, with maximum at about 10 days; there is also significant interannual power in records located west of 170°W. There is occasionally a local variance maximum in the range of 30- to 60-day periods. Within this near-equatorial region, the meridional wind variance is roughly half the zonal wind variance and is found primarily between about 3-day and 6-day periods and at the annual period. Poleward of about 5 degrees of latitude, the interannual variability in zonal wind diminishes sharply, and the zonal and meridional wind variances become increasingly comparable. The zonal wind energy level in the 3- to 60-day band decreases as one moves farther from the equator, until the more energetic winds typical of subtropical latitudes arise. Coherence calculations typically show zonal wind coherence significant at the 95% level at all energetic periods when islands axe within 200–300 km of each other meridionally, and within 1000–1500 km zonally. The meridional wind tends to be less coherent. A minimal sampling array for tropical surface wind variability in this region should have meridional sampling about every 2° and zonal sampling about every 15° for the zonal wind, and perhaps half these distances for the meridional wind.

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A. M. Chiodi and D. E. Harrison

Abstract

It is well known that some austral summertime subtropical Indian Ocean sea surface temperature (SST) variability correlates with rainfall over certain regions of Africa that depend on rainfall for their economic well-being. Recent studies have determined that this SST variability is at least partially driven by latent heat flux variability, but the mechanism has not been fully described. Here, the mechanism that drives this SST variability is reexamined using analyses of operational air–sea fluxes, ocean mixed layer modeling, and simple atmospheric boundary layer physics. The SST variability of interest is confirmed to be mainly driven by latent heat flux variability, which is shown, for the first time, to be mainly caused by near-surface humidity variability. This humidity variability is then shown to be fundamentally driven by the anomalous meridional advection of water vapor. The meridional wind anomalies of interest are subsequently found to occur when the subtropical atmospheric anticyclone is preferentially located toward one of the sides (east/west) of the basin.

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Andrew M. Chiodi and D. E. Harrison

Abstract

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events are associated with particular seasonal weather anomalies in many regions around the planet. When the statistical links are sufficiently strong, ENSO state information can provide useful seasonal forecasts with varying lead times. However, using conventional sea surface temperature or sea level pressure indices to characterize ENSO state leads to many instances of limited forecast skill (e.g., years identified as El Niño or La Niña with weather anomalies unlike the average), even in regions where there is considerable ENSO-associated anomaly, on average. Using outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) conditions to characterize ENSO state identifies a subset of the conventional ENSO years, called OLR El Niño and OLR La Niña years herein. Treating the OLR-identified subset of years differently can both usefully strengthen the level of statistical significance in the average (composite) and also greatly reduce the year-to-year deviations in the composite precipitation anomalies. On average, over most of the planet, the non-OLR El Niño and non-OLR La Niña years have much more limited statistical utility for precipitation. The OLR El Niño and OLR La Niña indices typically identify years in time to be of use to boreal wintertime and later seasonal forecasting efforts, meaning that paying attention to tropical Pacific OLR conditions may offer more than just a diagnostic tool. Understanding better how large-scale environmental conditions during ENSO events determine OLR behavior (and deep atmospheric convection) will lead to improved seasonal precipitation forecasts for many areas.

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D. E. Harrison and Gabriel A. Vecchi

Abstract

Based on examination of 10 yr of 10-m winds and wind anomalies from European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECWMF) analysis, definitions for westerly wind events (WWEs) of eight different types are proposed. The authors construct a composite for each type of event, show that a simple propagating Gaussian model satisfactorily describes the evolution of zonal wind anomaly for each type of event, and determine the scales of each composite event by fitting the model to each composite. The authors discuss the WWEs that occurred during the Tropical Oceans Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment (TOGA COARE) intensive observing period (IOP) and show the extent to which these composite events are able to reproduce the major westerly wind features of the IOP. The frequency of occurrence of each type of WWE for each year of this record and by calendar month are described; the authors find several types of events are negatively correlated with the annual mean troup Southern Oscillation index (SOI), and that the stronger WWEs often have a statistically significant seasonality. Several instances of widespread westerly wind anomaly are identified and described, but these “mega”-WWEs have few features in common. Although the authors’ composites underestimate the peak amplitude of many WWEs and cannot always accurately represent the time evolution of each WWE, the authors believe that they offer a useful framework for representing the sort of westerly wind variability that occurs in the western and central tropical Pacific and can provide a basis for further study of the importance of such winds in the climatological and interannual variability of this part of the World Ocean.

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Gabriel A. Vecchi and D. E. Harrison

Abstract

The authors examine global statistical relationships between westerly wind events (WWEs) and sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) variability, using a compositing technique for the period 1986–98. The authors describe the extent to which equatorial WWEs are associated with central and eastern equatorial Pacific waveguide warming and with local SSTA changes under the WWE. Their goal is to quantify the extent to which equatorial WWEs are fundamental to the onset and maintenance of warm El Niño–Southern Oscillation conditions. In order to understand the effect of WWEs on SSTA evolution, they begin by examining how SSTA changes in the absence of equatorial WWEs. They find that SSTA tends toward mean climate values in the absence of equatorial WWEs, whether the eastern equatorial Pacific has close to normal SSTA or warmer than normal SSTA.

The two equatorial WWE types whose main surface wind anomalies are west of the date line are associated with weak local surface cooling. The equatorial WWE type that has equatorial westerly wind anomalies east of the date line is associated with weak warming under those anomalies, when the eastern equatorial Pacific SSTA is close to normal.

When the tropical Pacific has near-normal eastern equatorial Pacific SST, each of the equatorial WWE types is followed by substantial equatorial waveguide warming in the central and eastern Pacific (composite warming as large as 1.0°C); also more than 50% of the large-amplitude WWEs were followed by Niño-3 SSTA warming in excess of 0.5°C. These changes are of similar amplitude and spatial structure as those seen in the onset of El Niño and are consistent with the predicted oceanic response to WWE forcing. When the eastern equatorial Pacific is initially warmer than usual, the two westernmost equatorial WWE types are associated with the maintenance of warm El Niño eastern and central Pacific SSTA; these warm anomalies tend to disappear in the absence of those WWE types. WWEs, or some mechanism strongly correlated with WWEs, represent a fundamental process for waveguide warming in the onset of El Niño and for eastern and central Pacific warm SSTA maintenance during El Niño.

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