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Xiaofan Li, Zeng-Zhen Hu, and Bohua Huang

Abstract

Evolutions of oceanic and atmospheric anomalies in the equatorial Pacific during four strong El Niños (1982/83, 1991/92, 1997/98, and 2015/16) since 1979 are compared. The contributions of the atmosphere–ocean coupling to El Niño–associated sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTA) are identified and their association with low-level winds as well as different time-scale variations is examined. Although overall SSTA in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific is strongest and comparable in the 1997/98 and 2015/16 El Niños, the associated subsurface ocean temperature as well as deep convection and surface wind stress anomalies in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific are weaker during 2015/16 than that during 1997/98. That may be associated with a variation of the wind–SST and wind–thermocline interactions. Both the wind–SST and wind–thermocline interactions play a less important role during 2015/16 than during 1997/98. Such differences are associated with the differences of the low-level westerly wind as well as the contribution of different time-scale variations in different events. Similar to the interannual time-scale variation, the intraseasonal–interseasonal time-scale component always has positive contributions to the intensity of all four strong El Niños. Interestingly, the role of the interdecadal-trend time-scale component varies with event. The contribution is negligible during the 1982/83 El Niño, negative during the 1997/98 El Niño, and positive during the 1991/92 and 2015/16 El Niños. Thus, in addition to the atmosphere–ocean coupling at intraseasonal to interannual time scales, interdecadal and longer time-scale variations may play an important and sometimes crucial role in determining the intensity of El Niño.

Open access
Xiaofan Li, Zeng-Zhen Hu, and Bohua Huang

Abstract

Based on observational data, this work examines the multi-time-scale feature of the sea surface temperature (SST) variability averaged in the whole North Atlantic Ocean (to be referred to as NASST), as well as its time-scale-dependent connections with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Traditionally, the NASST index is used to characterize the SST trend and multidecadal variability in the North Atlantic. This study found that superimposed on a prominent long-term trend, NASST is nonnegligible at subannual and interannual time scales, compared with that at decadal to multidecadal time scales. Spatially, the interannual variation of NASST is characterized by a horseshoe-like pattern of the SST anomaly (SSTA) in the North Atlantic. It is mainly a lagged response to ENSO through the atmospheric bridge, and NAO plays a secondary role. At the subannual time scale, both ENSO and NAO play a role in generating the fluctuations of NASST and a horseshoe-like pattern in the North Atlantic. Nevertheless, both the ENSO- and NAO-driven variations only explain a small fraction of the variances in both the interannual and subannual time scales. Thus, other factors unrelated to ENSO or NAO may play a more important role. The associated thermodynamical processes are similar at the two time scales; however, the dynamical processes have a significant contribution to the subannual component, but not to the interannual component. Thus, the SSTA averaged in the North Atlantic as a whole varies at different time scales and is associated with different mechanisms.

Free access
Ting Liu, Jianping Li, Juan Feng, Xiaofan Wang, and Yang Li

Abstract

Recent work suggests that the boreal autumn Southern Hemisphere annular mode (SAM) favors a tripole pattern of winter precipitation anomalies in the Northern Hemisphere. This study focuses on the abilities of climate models that participated in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) to reproduce the physical processes involved in this observed cross-seasonal connection. A systematic evaluation suggested that 16 out of 25 models were essentially capable of reproducing this cross-seasonal connection. Two categories of models were selected to explore the underlying reasons for these successful simulations. Models that successfully simulated the cross-seasonal relationship were placed in the type-I category, and these performed well in reproducing the related physical mechanism, known as the “coupled ocean–atmosphere bridge,” in terms of the SST variability associated with the SAM and response of the meridional circulation to these SST anomalies. In contrast, the type-II category of models showed poor performance in representing the related processes and associated feedbacks, and the model biases compromised the performance of the simulated cross-seasonal relationship. These results demonstrate that the capability of the CMIP5 models to reproduce SST variability associated with the boreal autumn SAM and related coupled ocean–atmosphere bridge process plays a decisive role in the successful simulation of the cross-seasonal relationship.

Full access
Xiaofan Li, Zeng-Zhen Hu, Ping Liang, and Jieshun Zhu

Abstract

In this work, the roles of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the variability and predictability of the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern and precipitation in North America in winter are examined. It is noted that statistically about 29% of the variance of PNA is linearly linked to ENSO, while the remaining 71% of the variance of PNA might be explained by other processes, including atmospheric internal dynamics and sea surface temperature variations in the North Pacific. The ENSO impact is mainly meridional from the tropics to the mid–high latitudes, while a major fraction of the non-ENSO variability associated with PNA is confined in the zonal direction from the North Pacific to the North American continent. Such interferential connection on PNA as well as on North American climate variability may reflect a competition between local internal dynamical processes (unpredictable fraction) and remote forcing (predictable fraction). Model responses to observed sea surface temperature and model forecasts confirm that the remote forcing is mainly associated with ENSO and it is the major source of predictability of PNA and winter precipitation in North America.

Open access
Chung-Hsiung Sui, Xiaofan Li, Michele M. Rienecker, Ka-Ming Lau, Istvan Laszlo, and Rachel T. Pinker

Abstract

The impacts of high-frequency surface forcing in the upper ocean over the equatorial Pacific are investigated using a nonlinear reduced-gravity isopycnal ocean circulation model forced by daily and monthly mean forcing. The simulated sea surface temperature (SST) in the daily forcing experiment is colder than that in the monthly forcing experiment near the equator. A mixed layer heat budget calculation shows that the net surface heat flux is primarily responsible for the SST difference in the western Pacific, while zonal advection accounts for the SST difference in the eastern Pacific where other budget terms are large but canceling each other. The daily forcing primarily enhances vertical mixing that reduces the vertical shear of the upper ocean. It also changes the net heat into the ocean through two contrasting processes: one is the increased surface latent heat loss induced by transient winds and the other is colder SST due to stronger mixing, which further reduces heat loss at the surface. As a result, the annual mean net surface heat flux into the ocean is reduced and the meridional thermal advection is weaker. The daily forcing also impacts the variation of the thermocline through a changing mixed layer depth so that the temperature in the simulation with the daily forcing is warmer around the thermocline.

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