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Fuyao Wang, Yan Yu, Michael Notaro, Jiafu Mao, Xiaoying Shi, and Yaxing Wei


This study advances the practicality and stability of the traditional multivariate statistical method, generalized equilibrium feedback assessment (GEFA), for decomposing the key oceanic drivers of regional atmospheric variability, especially when available data records are short. An advanced stepwise GEFA methodology is introduced, in which unimportant forcings within the forcing matrix are eliminated through stepwise selection. Method validation of stepwise GEFA is performed using the CESM, with a focused application to northern and tropical Africa (NTA). First, a statistical assessment of the atmospheric response to each primary oceanic forcing is carried out by applying stepwise GEFA to a fully coupled control run. Then, a dynamical assessment of the atmospheric response to individual oceanic forcings is performed through ensemble experiments by imposing sea surface temperature anomalies over focal ocean basins. Finally, to quantify the reliability of stepwise GEFA, the statistical assessment is evaluated against the dynamical assessment in terms of four metrics: the percentage of grid cells with consistent response sign, the spatial correlation of atmospheric response patterns, the area-averaged seasonal cycle of response magnitude, and consistency in associated mechanisms between assessments. In CESM, tropical modes, namely El Niño–Southern Oscillation and the tropical Indian Ocean Basin, tropical Indian Ocean dipole, and tropical Atlantic Niño modes, are the dominant oceanic controls of NTA climate. In complementary studies, stepwise GEFA is validated in terms of isolating terrestrial forcings on the atmosphere, and observed oceanic and terrestrial drivers of NTA climate are extracted to establish an observational benchmark for subsequent coupled model evaluation and development of process-based weights for regional climate projections.

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Jia-Rui Shi, Lynne D. Talley, Shang-Ping Xie, Wei Liu, and Sarah T. Gille


Observations show that since the 1950s, the Southern Ocean has stored a large amount of anthropogenic heat and has freshened at the surface. These patterns can be attributed to two components of surface forcing: poleward-intensified westerly winds and increased buoyancy flux from freshwater and heat. Here we separate the effects of these two forcing components by using a novel partial-coupling technique. We show that buoyancy forcing dominates the overall response in the temperature and salinity structure of the Southern Ocean. Wind stress change results in changes in subsurface temperature and salinity that are closely related to intensified residual meridional overturning circulation. As an important result, we show that buoyancy and wind forcing result in opposing changes in salinity: the wind-induced surface salinity increase due to upwelling of saltier subsurface water offsets surface freshening due to amplification of the global hydrological cycle. Buoyancy and wind forcing further lead to different vertical structures of Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) transport change; buoyancy forcing causes an ACC transport increase (3.1 ± 1.6 Sv; 1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) by increasing the meridional density gradient across the ACC in the upper 2000 m, while the wind-induced response is more barotropic, with the whole column transport increased by 8.7 ± 2.3 Sv. While previous research focused on the wind effect on ACC intensity, we show that surface horizontal current acceleration within the ACC is dominated by buoyancy forcing. These results shed light on how the Southern Ocean might change under global warming, contributing to more reliable future projections.

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Yan Yu, Michael Notaro, Fuyao Wang, Jiafu Mao, Xiaoying Shi, and Yaxing Wei


Generalized equilibrium feedback assessment (GEFA) is a potentially valuable multivariate statistical tool for extracting vegetation feedbacks to the atmosphere in either observations or coupled Earth system models. The reliability of GEFA at capturing the terrestrial impacts on regional climate is demonstrated here using the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Earth System Model (CESM), with focus on North Africa. The feedback is assessed statistically by applying GEFA to output from a fully coupled control run. To reduce the sampling error caused by short data records, the traditional or full GEFA is refined through stepwise GEFA by dropping unimportant forcings. Two ensembles of dynamical experiments are developed for the Sahel or West African monsoon region against which GEFA-based vegetation feedbacks are evaluated. In these dynamical experiments, regional leaf area index (LAI) is modified either alone or in conjunction with soil moisture, with the latter runs motivated by strong regional soil moisture–LAI coupling. Stepwise GEFA boasts higher consistency between statistically and dynamically assessed atmospheric responses to land surface anomalies than full GEFA, especially with short data records. GEFA-based atmospheric responses are more consistent with the coupled soil moisture–LAI experiments, indicating that GEFA is assessing the combined impacts of coupled vegetation and soil moisture. Both the statistical and dynamical assessments reveal a negative vegetation–rainfall feedback in the Sahel associated with an atmospheric stability mechanism in CESM versus a weaker positive feedback in the West African monsoon region associated with a moisture recycling mechanism in CESM.

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