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Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

A linear model that couples an ocean mixed layer with a simple dynamic atmosphere is used to study the mechanism for decadal variability over the tropical Atlantic. An unstable mode with a dipole sea surface temperature (SST) pattern similar to observed decadal variability in the tropical Atlantic emerges in the time integration of the model. A wind–evaporation–SST feedback is responsible for the growth and oscillation of the unstable mode whereas the mean state of the Atlantic climate is essential for maintaining the spatially quasi-standing dipole structure. The oscillation period ranges from several to a few tens of years and is sensitive to coupling strength.

The oscillation is not self-sustainable as the realistic damping rate exceeds the growth rate. In response to white noise forcing, the model produces a red SST spectrum without a peak at finite frequencies. Therefore it is suggested that the tropical dipole’s preferred timescales, if any, arise from the forcing by or interaction with the extratropics. In a model run where the forcing is confined to the extratropics, a dipole SST pattern still dominates the forcing-free Tropics, in support of the proposed linkage between the Tropics and extratropics.

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Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

A coupled ocean-atmosphere model is used to investigate the effects of seasonal variation in solar radiation on the configuration of the intertropical convergence zone. The model maintains a Northern Hemispheric ITCZ under annual mean insolation, with convection being suppressed in the Southern Hemisphere. In the presence of seasonal variations, a Southern Hemispheric ITCZ develops in boreal winter and spring in response to the seasonal rise in local solar radiation. As a result, the equatorial asymmetry of the annual-mean model climatology is reduced. The latitudinal asymmetry of the model climate is thus determined by a balance between the symmetry-breaking land forcing and the symmetry-restoring seasonal solar forcing.

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Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

A linear theory is proposed that can explain both the period and the westward propagation of the equatorial annual cycles in the SST and zonal wind. A coupled model linearized about a mean state of the air-sea system is used. This model allows the surface winds to directly change the SST through surface evaporation and vertical mixing, in contrast to the formulation of the conventional air-sea coupling models that emphasize the effects of winds on ocean dynamics. It is demonstrated that the characteristics of the equatorial seasonal cycle, including its period, phase, and amplitude, are determined to a large extent by the mean state of the air-sea coupling system. The meridional wind, which is specified here, is the most important forcing for the annual cycle in SST, suggesting that the equatorial annual cycle is the response to an annual solar forcing in the off-equatorial regions.

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Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

The climate over the equatorial Pacific displays a pronounced asymmetry in the zonal direction that is characterized by the Walker circulation in the atmosphere and the cold tongue in the ocean. An intermediate coupled ocean–atmosphere model is used to investigate the driving force and the ocean–atmosphere interaction mechanism for the generation of the zonal asymmetry. In the far eastern Pacific, the upwelling at the equator is weak because zonal winds are blocked by the Andes. The off-equatorial upwelling induced by southerly cross- equatorial winds is thus crucial for cooling the eastern Pacific. A realistic cold tongue appears in the coupled model only when this southerly wind forcing is included. The southerly winds cause the sea surface temperature to fall in the east, enhancing the zonal heat contrast and hence intensifying easterly winds across the basin. These anomalous easterlies induce more equatorial upwelling and raise the thermocline in the east, amplifying the initial cooling by the southerlies. A simple analog model is presented to illustrate this coupled ocean–atmosphere feedback originally proposed by Bjerknes.

From an oceanographic point of view, the equatorial cold tongue is caused by easterly winds. In the coupled model, much of these easterlies arises as part of the Bjerknes feedback and can be attributed to the southerly wind forcing in the east. Were the earth climate symmetric about the equator, cross-equatorial wind would vanish, and the cold tongue would be much weaker and have a very different zonal structure than is observed today.

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Yuko Okumura
and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

The Atlantic Niño, an equatorial zonal mode akin to the Pacific El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), is phase-locked to boreal summer when the equatorial easterly winds intensify and the thermocline shoals in the Gulf of Guinea. A suite of satellite and in situ observations reveals a new mode of tropical Atlantic variability that displays many characteristics of the zonal mode but instead peaks in November–December (ND). This new mode is found to be statistically independent from both the Atlantic Niño in the preceding summer and the Pacific ENSO. The origin of this ND zonal mode lies in an overlooked aspect of the seasonal cycle in the equatorial Atlantic.

In November the equatorial easterly winds intensify for the second time, increasing upwelling and lifting the thermocline in the Gulf of Guinea. An analysis of high-resolution climatological data shows that these dynamical changes induce a noticeable SST cooling in the central equatorial Atlantic. The shoaling thermocline and increased upwelling enhance the SST sensitivity to surface wind changes, reinvigorating equatorial ocean–atmosphere interaction. The resultant ocean–atmospheric anomalies are organized into patterns that give rise to positive mutual feedback as Bjerknes envisioned for the Pacific ENSO. This ND zonal mode significantly affects interannual rainfall variability in coastal Congo–Angola during its early rainy season. It tends to further evolve into a meridional mode in the following March–April, affecting precipitation in northeast Brazil. Thus it offers potential predictability for climate over the Atlantic sector in early boreal winter, a season for which local ocean–atmosphere variability was otherwise poorly understood.

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Takeaki Sampe
and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

Meiyu-baiu is the major rainy season from central China to Japan brought by a zonally elongated rainband from June to mid-July. Large-scale characteristics and environmental forcing of this important phenomenon are investigated based on a reanalysis dataset. The meiyu-baiu rainband is accompanied by a trough of sea level pressure, horizontal shears, and sharp moisture gradients near the surface, a westerly jet tilted northward with height, and large northeastward moisture transport from the south.

The analysis here reveals the westerly jet as an important culprit for meiyu-baiu. Along the rainband, mean ascending motion corresponds well with a band of warm horizontal temperature advection in the midtroposphere throughout summer. This adiabatic induction of upward motion originates from the advection of warm air by the westerlies from the eastern flank of the Tibetan Plateau. The ascending motion both induces convection and is enhanced by the resultant condensational heating. The westerly jet anchors the meiyu-baiu rainband also by steering transient eddies, creating periods conducive to convection through convective instability and adiabatic updrafts. Indeed, in meiyu-baiu, the probability distribution of convective instability shows large spreads and is strongly skewed, with a sharp cutoff on the unstable side resulting from the effective removal of instability by convection. Thus, active weather disturbances in the westerly waveguide explain a paradox that convection is active in the meiyu-baiu rainband while mean convective instability is significantly higher to the south over the subtropical North Pacific warm pool. In addition to the westerly jet, low-level southerly winds over eastern China between the heat low over Asia and the subtropical high pressure belt over the Pacific are another important environmental forcing for meiyu-baiu by supplying moisture. A conceptual model for meiyu-baiu is presented, and its implications for seasonal and interannual variations are discussed.

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Wenyu Zhou
and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

The Kuroshio–Oyashio Extension (KOE) is a region of energetic oceanic mesoscale eddies and vigorous air–sea interaction that can influence climate variability over the northwest Pacific and East Asia. General circulation models (GCMs) exhibit considerable differences in their simulated climatology around the KOE region. Specifically, there are substantial intermodel spreads in both sea surface temperature (SST) and the upper-level westerly jet. In this study, the cause for such large spreads is studied by analyzing 21 pairs of coupled and atmospheric GCMs from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5).

It is found that the intermodel spread of the climatological westerly jet among coupled GCMs is largely inherited from their atmospheric models rather than being due to their SST difference as previously thought. An anomalous equatorward shift in the simulated westerly jet can give rise to a cold SST bias around the KOE region as follows. The equatorward jet shift induces cyclonic surface wind anomalies over the North Pacific, which not only enhance the turbulent heat fluxes out of the ocean south of the KOE but also drive an anomalous cyclonic ocean circulation that brings colder (warmer) water into the north (south) of the KOE. The KOE region is consequently cooled due to both the atmospheric and oceanic effects. Such processes are demonstrated through idealized perturbation experiments using an ocean model.

The results herein point to reducing atmospheric model errors in the westerly jet as the way forward to improve the coupled simulations around the KOE region.

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Zhen-Qiang Zhou
and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

Climate models suffer from long-standing biases, including the double intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) problem and the excessive westward extension of the equatorial Pacific cold tongue. An atmospheric general circulation model is used to investigate how model biases in the mean state affect the projection of tropical climate change. The model is forced with a pattern of sea surface temperature (SST) increase derived from a coupled simulation of global warming but uses an SST climatology derived from either observations or a coupled historical simulation. The comparison of the experiments reveals that the climatological biases have important impacts on projected changes in the tropics. Specifically, during February–April when the climatological ITCZ displaces spuriously into the Southern Hemisphere, the model overestimates (underestimates) the projected rainfall increase in the warmer climate south (north) of the equator over the eastern Pacific. Furthermore, the global warming–induced Walker circulation slowdown is biased weak in the projection using coupled model climatology, suggesting that the projection of the reduced equatorial Pacific trade winds may also be underestimated. This is related to the bias that the climatological Walker circulation is too weak in the model, which is in turn due to a too-weak mean SST gradient in the zonal direction. The results highlight the importance of improving the climatological simulation for more reliable projections of regional climate change.

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Shang-Ping Xie
and
Zhen-Qiang Zhou

Abstract

The spatial structure of atmospheric anomalies associated with El Niño–Southern Oscillation varies with season because of the seasonal variations in sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly pattern and in the climatological basic state. The latter effect is demonstrated using an atmospheric model forced with a time-invariant pattern of El Niño warming over the equatorial Pacific. The seasonal modulation is most pronounced over the north Indian Ocean to northwest Pacific where the monsoonal winds vary from northeasterly in winter to southwesterly in summer. Specifically, the constant El Niño run captures the abrupt transition from a summer cyclonic to winter anticyclonic anomalous circulation over the northwest Pacific, in support of the combination mode idea that emphasizes nonlinear interactions of equatorial Pacific SST forcing and the climatological seasonal cycle. In post–El Niño summers when equatorial Pacific warming has dissipated, SST anomalies over the Indo–northwest Pacific Oceans dominate and anchor the coherent persisting anomalous anticyclonic circulation. A conceptual model is presented that incorporates the combination mode in the existing framework of regional Indo–western Pacific Ocean coupling.

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Wenyu Zhou
and
Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

A hierarchy of idealized monsoons with increased degrees of complexity is built using an intermediate model with simplified physics and idealized land–sea geometry. This monsoon hierarchy helps formulate a basic understanding about the distribution of the surface equivalent potential temperature θ e , which proves to provide a general guide on the monsoon rainfall. The zonally uniform monsoon in the simplest aquaplanet simulations is explained by a linearized model of the meridional distribution of θ e , which is driven by the seasonally varying solar insolation and damped by both the monsoon overturning circulation and the local negative feedback. The heat capacities of the surface and the atmosphere give rise to an intrinsic time scale that causes the monsoon migration to lag behind the sun and reduces the monsoon extent and intensity. Monsoons with a zonally confined continent can be understood based on the zonally uniform monsoon by considering the ocean influence on the land through the westerly jet advection, which reduces the monsoon extent and induces zonal asymmetry. Monsoon responses to more realistic factors such as land geometry, albedo, and ocean heat flux are consistently predicted by their impacts on the surface θ e distribution. The soil moisture effect, however, does not fully fit into the surface θ e argument and provides additional control on monsoon rainfall by inducing regional circulation and rainfall patterns.

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