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Malte F. Jansen, Dietmar Dommenget, and Noel Keenlyside

Abstract

Statistical analysis of observations (including atmospheric reanalysis and forced ocean model simulations) is used to address two questions: First, does an analogous mechanism to that of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) exist in the equatorial Atlantic or Indian Ocean? Second, does the intrinsic variability in these basins matter for ENSO predictability? These questions are addressed by assessing the existence and strength of the Bjerknes and delayed negative feedbacks in each tropical basin, and by fitting conceptual recharge oscillator models, both with and without interactions among the basins.

In the equatorial Atlantic the Bjerknes and delayed negative feedbacks exist, although weaker than in the Pacific. Equatorial Atlantic variability is well described by the recharge oscillator model, with an oscillatory mixed ocean dynamics–sea surface temperature (SST) mode present in boreal spring and summer. The dynamics of the tropical Indian Ocean, however, appear to be quite different: no recharge–discharge mechanism is found. Although a positive Bjerknes-like feedback from July to September is found, the role of heat content seems secondary.

Results also show that Indian Ocean interaction with ENSO tends to damp the ENSO oscillation and is responsible for a frequency shift to shorter periods. However, the retrospective forecast skill of the conceptual model is hardly improved by explicitly including Indian Ocean SST. The interaction between ENSO and the equatorial Atlantic variability is weaker. However, a feedback from the Atlantic on ENSO appears to exist, which slightly improves the retrospective forecast skill of the conceptual model.

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Lennart Bengtsson, Kevin I. Hodges, and Noel Keenlyside

Abstract

Extratropical cyclones and how they may change in a warmer climate have been investigated in detail with a high-resolution version of the ECHAM5 global climate model. A spectral resolution of T213 (63 km) is used for two 32-yr periods at the end of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and integrated for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) A1B scenario. Extremes of pressure, vorticity, wind, and precipitation associated with the cyclones are investigated and compared with a lower-resolution simulation. Comparison with observations of extreme wind speeds indicates that the model reproduces realistic values.

This study also investigates the ability of the model to simulate extratropical cyclones by computing composites of intense storms and contrasting them with the same composites from the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40). Composites of the time evolution of intense cyclones are reproduced with great fidelity; in particular the evolution of central surface pressure is almost exactly replicated, but vorticity, maximum wind speed, and precipitation are higher in the model. Spatial composites also show that the distributions of pressure, winds, and precipitation at different stages of the cyclone life cycle compare well with those from ERA-40, as does the vertical structure.

For the twenty-first century, changes in the distribution of storms are very similar to those of previous study. There is a small reduction in the number of cyclones but no significant changes in the extremes of wind and vorticity in both hemispheres. There are larger regional changes in agreement with previous studies.

The largest changes are in the total precipitation, where a significant increase is seen. Cumulative precipitation along the tracks of the cyclones increases by some 11% per track, or about twice the increase in global precipitation, while the extreme precipitation is close to the globally averaged increase in column water vapor (some 27%). Regionally, changes in extreme precipitation are even higher because of changes in the storm tracks.

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Noel S. Keenlyside, Mojib Latif, and Anke Dürkop

Abstract

Multichannel singular spectrum analysis (MSSA) of surface zonal wind, sea surface temperature (SST), 20° isotherm depth, and surface zonal current observations (between 1990 and 2004) identifies three coupled ocean–atmosphere modes of variability in the tropical Pacific: the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the annual cycle, and a mode with a 14–18-month period, which is referred to as sub-ENSO in this study. The sub-ENSO mode accounts for the near 18-month (near annual) variability prior to (following) the 1997/98 El Niño event. It was strongest during this El Niño event, with SST anomalies exceeding 1°C. Sub-ENSO peak SST anomalies are ENSO-like in structure and are associated with eastward propagating heat content variations. However, the SST anomalies are preceded by and in near quadrature with relatively strong remotely forced westward propagating zonal current variations, suggesting the sub-ENSO mode arises from the zonal-advective feedback.

The sub-ENSO mode is found to exist also in an intermediate complexity model (ICM) of the tropical Pacific. A heat budget analysis of the model’s sub-ENSO mode shows it indeed arises from the zonal-advective feedback. In the model, both ENSO and sub-ENSO modes coexist, but there is a weak nonlinear interaction between them. Experiments also show that the observed changes in sub-ENSO’s characteristics may be explained by changes in the relative importance of zonal and vertical advection SST tendencies.

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Daniela Matei, Noel Keenlyside, Mojib Latif, and Johann Jungclaus

Abstract

The relative impact of the subtropical North and South Pacific Oceans on the tropical Pacific climate mean state and variability is estimated using an ocean–atmosphere–sea ice coupled general circulation model. Tailored experiments are performed in which the model is forced by idealized sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs) in the subtropics of both hemispheres. The main results of this study suggest that subtropical South Pacific climate variations play a dominant role in tropical Pacific decadal variability and in the decadal modulation of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

In response to a 2°C warming in the subtropical South Pacific, the equatorial Pacific SST increases by about 0.6°C, approximately 65% larger than the change in the North Pacific experiment. The subtropics affect equatorial SST mainly through atmosphere–mixed layer interactions in the South Pacific experiments; the response is mostly accomplished within a decade. The “oceanic tunnel” dominates in the North Pacific experiments; the response takes at least 100 yr to be accomplished. Similar sensitivity experiments conducted with the stand-alone atmosphere model showed that both air–sea interactions and ocean dynamics are crucial in shaping the tropical climate response.

The statistics of ENSO exhibit significant changes in amplitude and frequency in response to a warming/cooling of the subtropical South Pacific: a 2°C warming (cooling) of subtropical South Pacific SST reduces (increases) the interannual standard deviation by about 30% (20%) and shortens (lengthens) the ENSO period. The simulated changes in the equatorial zonal SST gradient are the main contributor to the modulation of ENSO variability. The simulated intensification (weakening) of the annual cycle in response to an enhanced warming (cooling) in subtropical South Pacific partly explains the shifts in frequency, but may also lead to a weaker (stronger) ENSO. The subtropical North Pacific thermal forcing did not change the statistical properties of ENSO as strongly.

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Rong-Hua Zhang, Stephen E. Zebiak, Richard Kleeman, and Noel Keenlyside

Abstract

A new intermediate coupled model (ICM) is presented and employed to make retrospective predictions of tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies. The ocean dynamics is an extension of the McCreary baroclinic modal model to include varying stratification and certain nonlinear effects. A standard configuration is chosen with 10 baroclinic modes plus two surface layers, which are governed by Ekman dynamics and simulate the combined effects of the higher baroclinic modes from 11 to 30. A nonlinear correction associated with vertical advection of zonal momentum is incorporated and applied (diagnostically) only within the two surface layers, forced by the linear part through nonlinear advection terms. As a result of these improvements, the model realistically simulates the mean equatorial circulation and its variability. The ocean thermodynamics include an SST anomaly model with an empirical parameterization for the temperature of subsurface water entrained into the mixed layer (Te), which is optimally calculated in terms of sea surface height (SSH) anomalies using an empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis technique from historical data. The ocean model is then coupled to a statistical atmospheric model that estimates wind stress (τ) anomalies based on a singular value decomposition (SVD) analysis between SST anomalies observed and τ anomalies simulated from ECHAM4.5 (24-member ensemble mean). The coupled system exhibits realistic interannual variability associated with El Niño, including a predominant standing pattern of SST anomalies along the equator and coherent phase relationships among different atmosphere–ocean anomaly fields with a dominant 3-yr oscillation period.

Twelve-month hindcasts/forecasts are made during the period 1963–2002, starting each month. Only observed SST anomalies are used to initialize the coupled predictions. As compared to other prediction systems, this coupled model has relatively small systematic errors in the predicted SST anomalies, and its SST prediction skill is apparently competitive with that of most advanced coupled systems incorporating sophisticated ocean data assimilation. One striking feature is that the model skill surpasses that of persistence at all lead times over the central equatorial Pacific. Prediction skill is strongly dependent on the season, with the correlations attaining a minimum in spring and a maximum in fall. Cross-validation experiments are performed to examine the sensitivity of the prediction skill to the data periods selected for training the empirical Te model. It is demonstrated that the artificial skill introduced by using a dependently constructed Te model is not significant. Independent forecasts are made for the period 1997–2002 when no dependent data are included in constructing the two empirical models (Te and τ). The coupled model has reasonable success in predicting transition to warm phase and to cold phase in the spring of 1997 and 1998, respectively. Potential problems and further improvements are discussed with the new intermediate prediction system.

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Sunil Kumar Pariyar, Noel Keenlyside, Bhuwan Chandra Bhatt, and Nour-Eddine Omrani

Abstract

The space–time structure of intraseasonal (10–90 day) rainfall variability in the western tropical Pacific is studied using daily 3B42 TRMM and ERA-Interim reanalysis data for the period 1998–2014. Empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis of 10–90-day filtered daily rainfall anomalies identifies two leading modes in both May–October and November–April; together these modes explain about 11%–12% of the total intraseasonal variance over the domain in both seasons and up to 60% over large areas of the western Pacific in both climatological periods. The two leading modes in May–October are linearly related to each other and both are well correlated with the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) indices. Although the two leading EOF modes in November–April are linearly independent of each other, both show statistically significant correlations with the MJO. The phase composites of 30–80-day filtered data show that the two leading modes are associated with strong eastward and northward propagation of rainfall anomalies in May–October, and eastward and southward propagation of rainfall anomalies in November–April. The eastward propagation of rainfall anomalies in both seasons and southeastward propagation related with EOF2 in November–April is linked to the development of low-level moisture flux convergence ahead of the active convection. Similarly, the northward propagation in May–October is also connected with low-level moisture flux convergence, but surface wind and evaporation variations are also important. The wind–evaporation–SST feedback mechanism drives the southeastward propagation of rainfall anomalies associated with EOF1 in November–April. The different mechanisms for southeastward propagation associated with two leading modes in November–April suggest dynamically different relations with the MJO.

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Rong-Hua Zhang, Richard Kleeman, Stephen E. Zebiak, Noel Keenlyside, and Stephane Raynaud

Abstract

An empirical model for the temperature of subsurface water entrained into the ocean mixed layer (Te) is presented and evaluated to improve sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) simulations in an intermediate ocean model (IOM) of the tropical Pacific. An inverse modeling approach is adopted to estimate Te from an SSTA equation using observed SST and simulated upper-ocean currents. A relationship between Te and sea surface height (SSH) anomalies is then obtained by utilizing a singular value decomposition (SVD) of their covariance. This empirical scheme is able to better parameterize Te anomalies than other local schemes and quite realistically depicts interannual variability of Te, including a nonlocal phase lag relation of Te variations relative to SSH anomalies over the central equatorial Pacific. An improved Te parameterization naturally leads to better depiction of the subsurface effect on SST variability by the mean upwelling of subsurface temperature anomalies. As a result, SSTA simulations are significantly improved in the equatorial Pacific; a comparison with other schemes indicates that systematic errors of the simulated SSTAs are significantly small—apparently due to the optimized empirical Teparameterization. Cross validation and comparisons with other model simulations are made to illustrate the robustness and effectiveness of the scheme. In particular it is demonstrated that the empirical Te model constructed from one historical period can be successfully used to improve SSTA simulations in another.

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Shunya Koseki, Benjamin Pohl, Bhuwan Chandra Bhatt, Noel Keenlyside, and Arielle Stela Nkwinkwa Njouodo

Abstract

Adopting a state-of-the-art numerical model system, we investigate how the diurnal variations in precipitation and local breeze systems are characterized by lower-boundary conditions related to the Drakensberg highland and warm SST associated with the Agulhas Current. A control simulation can simulate the hydrometeorological climates in the region realistically, but the terrestrial rainfall is overestimated. During daytime, the precipitation is confined to the Drakensberg highland, and there is an onshore local breeze, while during midnight to morning, the rainfall is confined to the Agulhas Current, and the breeze is offshore. These variations are captured by the numerical simulation, although the timing of maximum rainfall is early over the land and delayed over the ocean. The sensitivity experiment in which the Drakensberg is absent shows a drastic modification in the diurnal variations over land and ocean. The terrestrial precipitation is largely decreased around the Drakensberg and is largest along the coast during daytime. The nocturnal marine precipitation along the Agulhas Current is also reduced. Although the daily residual breeze is still pronounced even without the Drakensberg, wind speed is weakened. We attribute this to the reduction of precipitation. In another sensitivity experiment with smoothened warm SST due to the Agulhas Current, the amplitudes of diurnal variations are not modified remarkably, but the coastal rainfall is diminished to some extent due to less evaporation along the Agulhas Current. This study concludes that the Drakensberg plays a crucial role for the diurnal cycle, and the impact of the Agulhas Current is limited on the diurnal cycle of the coastal precipitation in this region.

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Vladimir A. Semenov, Mojib Latif, Dietmar Dommenget, Noel S. Keenlyside, Alexander Strehz, Thomas Martin, and Wonsun Park

Abstract

The twentieth-century Northern Hemisphere surface climate exhibits a long-term warming trend largely caused by anthropogenic forcing, with natural decadal climate variability superimposed on it. This study addresses the possible origin and strength of internal decadal climate variability in the Northern Hemisphere during the recent decades. The authors present results from a set of climate model simulations that suggest natural internal multidecadal climate variability in the North Atlantic–Arctic sector could have considerably contributed to the Northern Hemisphere surface warming since 1980. Although covering only a few percent of the earth’s surface, the Arctic may have provided the largest share in this. It is hypothesized that a stronger meridional overturning circulation in the Atlantic and the associated increase in northward heat transport enhanced the heat loss from the ocean to the atmosphere in the North Atlantic region and especially in the North Atlantic portion of the Arctic because of anomalously strong sea ice melt. The model results stress the potential importance of natural internal multidecadal variability originating in the North Atlantic–Arctic sector in generating interdecadal climate changes, not only on a regional scale, but also possibly on a hemispheric and even a global scale.

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Arielle Stela N. Imbol Nkwinkwa, Mathieu Rouault, Noel Keenlyside, and Shunya Koseki

Abstract

The Agulhas Current (AC) creates a sharp temperature gradient with the surrounding ocean, leading to a large turbulent flux of moisture from ocean to atmosphere. We use two simulations of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model to show the seasonal impact of the warm core of the AC on southern Africa precipitation. In one simulation the sea surface temperature (SST) of the AC is similar to satellite observations, while the second uses satellite SST observations spatially smoothed to reduce the temperature of the core of the AC by ~1.5°C. We show that decreasing the SST of the AC reduces the precipitation of the wettest seasons (austral summer and autumn) inland. Over the ocean, reducing the SST reduces precipitation, low-level wind convergence, SST, and SLP Laplacians above the AC in all seasons, consistent with the pressure adjustment mechanism. Moreover, winter precipitation above the AC may also be related to increased latent flux. In summer and autumn, the AC SST reduction is also associated with decreased precipitation farther inland (more than 1.5 mm day−1), caused by an atmospheric circulation that decreases the horizontal moisture flux from the AC to South Africa. The reduction is also associated with higher geopotential height extending from the surface east and over the AC to the midtroposphere over southeastern Africa. The westward tilted geopotential height is consistent with the linear response to shallow diabatic heating in midlatitudes. An identical mechanism occurs in spring but is weaker. Winter rainfall response is confined above the AC.

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