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Arthur J. Miller, Daniel R. Cayan, and Warren B. White

Abstract

From the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, the main thermocline of the subarctic gyre of the North Pacific Ocean shoaled with temperatures at 200–400-m depth cooling by 1°–4°C over the region. The gyre-scale structure of the shoaling is quasi-stationary and intensified in the western part of the basin north of 30°N, suggesting concurrent changes in gyre-scale transport. A similar quasi-stationary cooling in the subtropical gyre south of 25°N is also observed but lags the subpolar change by several years. To explore the physics of these changes, the authors examine an ocean model forced by observed wind stress and heat flux anomalies from 1970–88 in which they find similar changes in gyre-scale thermocline structure. The model current fields reveal that the North Pacific subpolar and subtropical gyres strengthened by roughly 10% from the 1970s to the 1980s. The bulk of the eastward flow of the model Kuroshio–Oyashio Extension returned westward via the subpolar gyre circuit, while the subtropical gyre return flow along 20°N lags the subpolar changes by several years. The authors demonstrate that the model thermocline cooling and increased transport occurred in response to decadal-scale changes in basin-scale wind stress curl with the quasi-stationary oceanic response being in a time-dependent quasi-Sverdrup balance over much of the basin east of the date line. This wind stress curl driven response is quasi-stationary but occurs in conjunction with a propagating temperature anomaly associated with subduction in the central North Pacific that links the subpolar and subtropical gyre stationary changes and gives the appearance of circumgyre propagation. Different physics evidently controls the decadal subsurface temperature signal in different parts of the extratropical North Pacific.

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Niklas Schneider, Arthur J. Miller, and David W. Pierce

Abstract

A systematic analysis of North Pacific decadal variability in a full-physics coupled ocean–atmosphere model is executed. The model is an updated and improved version of the coupled model studied by Latif and Barnett. Evidence is sought for determining the details of the mechanism responsible for the enhanced variance of some variables at 20–30-yr timescales. The possible mechanisms include a midlatitude gyre ocean–atmosphere feedback loop, stochastic forcing, remote forcing, or sampling error.

Decadal variability in the model is expressed most prominently in anomalies of upper-ocean streamfunction, sea surface temperature (SST), and latent surface heat flux in the Kuroshio–Oyashio extension (KOE) region off Japan. The decadal signal off Japan is initiated by changes in strength and position of the Aleutian low. The atmospheric perturbations excite SST anomalies in the central and eastern North Pacific (with opposing signs and canonical structure). The atmospheric perturbations also change the Ekman pumping over the North Pacific, which excites equivalent barotropic Rossby waves that carry thermocline depth perturbations toward the west. This gyre adjustment results in a shift in the border between subtropical and subpolar gyres after about five years. This process consequently excites SST anomalies (bearing the same sign as the central North Pacific) in the KOE region. The SST anomalies are generated by subsurface temperature anomalies that are brought to the surface during winter by deep mixing and are damped by air–sea winter heat exchange (primarily latent heat flux). This forcing of the atmosphere by the ocean in the KOE region is associated with changes of winter precipitation over the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The polarity of SST and Ekman pumping is such that warm central and cool eastern Pacific anomalies are associated with a deep thermocline, a poleward shift of the border between subtropical and subpolar gyres, and warm SST anomalies and an increase of rain in the KOE region.

The preponderance of variance at decadal timescales in the KOE results from the integration of stochastic Ekman pumping along Rossby wave trajectories. The Ekman pumping is primarily due to atmospheric variability that expresses itself worldwide including in the tropical Pacific. A positive feedback between the coupled model KOE SST (driven by the ocean streamfunction) and North Pacific Ekman pumping is consistent with the enhanced variance of the coupled model at 20–30-yr periods. However, the time series are too short to unambiguously distinguish this positive feedback hypothesis from sampling variability. No evidence is found for a midlatitude gyre ocean–atmosphere delayed negative feedback loop.

Comparisons with available observations confirm the seasonality of the forcing, the up to 5-yr time lag between like-signed central North Pacific and KOE SST anomalies, and the associated damping of SST in the KOE region by the latent heat flux. The coupled model results also suggest that observed SST anomalies in the KOE region may be predictable from the history of the wind-stress curl over the North Pacific.

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Arthur J. Miller, Warren B. White, and Daniel R. Cayan

Abstract

The North Pacific thermocline (250 to 400 m) is studied using XBT observations acquired during the 1970s and 1980s. Interannual variations (3–5 yr timescales) in thermocline temperature, with O(0.1°C) amplitude at 400 m, are found to exhibit westward propagation throughout the extratropical North Pacific up to 45°N. Southward of 30°N, the features propagate intact across the basin from the eastern boundary to the western boundary. Northward of 30°N, the features can be observed to propagate only as far as the date line. The observed midlatitude thermocline anomalies are often related to tropical ENSO events in that they occur most strongly after the development of tropical El Niño or La Niña conditions and propagate westward from near the eastern boundary in the midlatitudes. But it is found that the observed midlatitude thermocline anomalies have larger phase speeds than theoretically predicted free baroclinic Rossby waves. Also, the observed anomalies have larger wavelength and faster propagation speeds than baroclinic Rossby waves that radiate from coastal Kelvin-like waves near the eastern boundary in well-known high-resolution models.

Large-scale thermocline fluctuations that have spatial scale and phase speeds similar to the observations are also found in a coarse-resolution model of the Pacific Ocean forced by observed wind and heat flux anomalies over the 1970–88 period. In the midlatitudes, north of 30°N, large-scale Ekman pumping by interannual wind stress curl variations provides a significant driving mechanism for the modeled large-scale thermocline anomalies. The modeled ocean response is a combination of the static thermocline response to large-scale Ekman pumping plus a train of westward traveling Rossby waves, which accounts for part of the propagating temperature fluctuations. A tropical, remotely forced component is prominant near the eastern boundary, but this only contributes weakly in the model open ocean.

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Hyodae Seo, Arthur J. Miller, and Joel R. Norris

Abstract

The summertime California Current System (CCS) is characterized by energetic mesoscale eddies, whose sea surface temperature (SST) and surface current can significantly modify the wind stress and Ekman pumping. Relative importance of the eddy–wind interactions via SST and surface current in the CCS is examined using a high-resolution (7 km) regional coupled model with a novel coupling approach to isolate the small-scale air–sea coupling by SST and surface current. Results show that when the eddy-induced surface current is allowed to modify the wind stress, the spatially averaged surface eddy kinetic energy (EKE) is reduced by 42%, and this is primarily due to enhanced surface eddy drag and reduced wind energy transfer. In contrast, the eddy-induced SST–wind coupling has no significant impact on the EKE. Furthermore, eddy-induced SST and surface current modify the Ekman pumping via their crosswind SST gradient and surface vorticity gradient, respectively. The resultant magnitudes of the Ekman pumping velocity are comparable, but the implied feedback effects on the eddy statistics are different. The surface current-induced Ekman pumping mainly attenuates the amplitude of cyclonic and anticyclonic eddies, acting to reduce the eddy activity, while the SST-induced Ekman pumping primarily affects the propagation. Time mean–rectified change in SST is determined by the altered offshore temperature advection by the mean and eddy currents, but the magnitude of the mean SST change is greater with the eddy-induced current effect. The demonstrated remarkably strong dynamical response in the CCS system to the eddy-induced current–wind coupling indicates that eddy-induced current should play an important role in the regional coupled ocean–atmosphere system.

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Daling Li Yi, Bolan Gan, Lixin Wu, and Arthur J. Miller

Abstract

Based on the Simple Ocean Data Assimilation (SODA) product and 37 models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) database, the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO) and its decadal generation mechanisms are evaluated by studying the second leading modes of North Pacific sea surface height (SSH) and sea level pressure (SLP) as well as their dynamical connections. It is found that 17 out of 37 models can well simulate the spatial pattern and decadal time scales (10–30 yr) of the NPGO mode, which resembles the observation-based SODA results. Dynamical connections between the oceanic mode (NPGO) and the atmospheric mode [North Pacific Oscillation (NPO)] are strongly evident in both SODA and the 17 models. In particular, about 30%–40% of the variance of the NPGO variability, which generally exhibits a preferred time scale, can be explained by the NPO variability, which has no preferred time scale in most models.

Two mechanisms of the decadal NPGO variability that had been proposed by previous studies are evaluated in SODA and the 17 models: 1) stochastic atmospheric forcing and oceanic spatial resonance and 2) low-frequency atmospheric teleconnections excited by the equatorial Pacific. Evaluation reveals that these two mechanisms are valid in SODA and two models (CNRM-CM5 and CNRM-CM5.2), whereas two models (CMCC-CM and CMCC-CMS) prefer the first mechanism and another two models (CMCC-CESM and IPSL-CM5B-LR) prefer the second mechanism. The other 11 models have no evident relations with the proposed two mechanisms, suggesting the need for a fundamental understanding of the decadal NPGO variability in the future.

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Matthew J. Bunkers, James R. Miller Jr., and Arthur T. DeGaetano

Abstract

Monthly total precipitation and mean temperature data records extending from the late nineteenth century to 1990 were collected for 147 stations in South Dakota, North Dakota, and portions of adjacent states and provinces. This region, defined as the Northern Plains region (NPR), was examined for patterns associated with the warm phase (ENSO) and the cold phase (LNSO) of the Southern Oscillation to elucidate some of the debate concerning a signal in this area. Based on a correlation analysis, the NPR was treated as having one spatial degree of freedom.

Using Monte Carlo simulations of the Student's t-test statistic, four seasons with significant changes in mean precipitation or temperature during either ENSO or LNSO were identified. A highly significant signal was evident during the ENSO April to October season for precipitation, where the mean precipitation increased 7.21 cm for the 23 events studied. Here 20 of these 23 ENSO events exhibited precipitation above the median value, and 14 of the 23 events were in the upper quartile. In contrast, a strong signal for decreased LNSO precipitation was noted where May to August precipitation averaged 3.91 cm lower during the 17 events, with similar significance values. Complementing the enhanced ENSO warm season precipitation, the August to October ten-iperatme decreased by 2.17°C, with a significant number of events in both the lowest half and lowest quartile. Finally, temperature averaged 4.67°C cooler during LNSO winters. These results will be useful for limited-season prediction of precipitation and temperature tendencies across the NPR.

It is interesting to note that the initial ENSO years did not reveal a significant temperature increase during the NPR winter, which is in contrast to similar studies. However, by slightly modifying the years that were classified as ENSO years, a significant winter temperature response was indicated. This suggests that there is a tendency for warmer NPR winters during ENSO; however, this was not statistically significant.

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Arthur J. Miller, Douglas S. Luther, and Myrl C. Hendershott

Abstract

The fortnightly and monthly tides are discussed in the light of recent sea level observations and numerical modeling results. Within the tide gauge network of the low-latitude Pacific, the fortnightly tide is shown to possess a large-scale phase lag of roughly 10–40 degrees. Although the nonequilibrium part of the fortnightly tide is traditionally thought to be dominated by Rossby wave dynamics, it is shown, via global shallow-water modeling studies, that this large-scale phase lag is explicable in terms of remotely forced gravity waves whose origin is mainly in the Arctic Ocean. Although future observations outside the low-latitude region of the Pacific may eventually reveal Rossby wave excitation, the fortnightly tidal signal in the tide gauge network at hand appears to reveal at most only weak excitation of Rossby waves compared to the phase lag due to remotely forced gravity waves. The observed monthly tide appears to be only slightly closer to equilibrium than the fortnightly tide. The reason for this remains unclear since the monthly tide is less affected by the remotely forced gravity waves than the fortnightly tide.

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Matthew J. Bunkers, James R. Miller Jr., and Arthur T. DeGaetano

Abstract

Spatially homogeneous climate regions were developed from long-term monthly temperature and precipitation data for a subset of the U.S. Northern Plains. Climate regions were initially defined using the “best” of three agglomerative and hierarchical clustering methodologies, then the clusters were objectively modified using a “pseudohierarchical” iterative improvement technique. Under the premise of hierarchical cluster analysis, once an object has been assigned to a cluster, it cannot later he reassigned to a different cluster, even if it is statistically desirable. The objective modification technique used herein is employed to compensate for this problem.

Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to reduce a 147-station dataset, consisting of 24 climatic variables averaged over the 1931–1990 period, to three orthogonal components. The new standardized mars, which explain 93% of the original dataset variance, were then subjected to the Ward's, average linkage, and complete linkage clustering methods. The average linkage method produced the most representative statistical results in identifying the climate regions. An iterative improvement technique was then utilized to test “border station” membership and to modify the climate region houses. Fifteen climate regions resulted from the clustering (with two single-station clusters in the Black Hills alone), although they age just one possible partitioning of the data. The within-cluster variability is generally the same for the 15 climate regions and the corresponding 21 National Climatic Data Center (NCM) climate divisions. However, since data within-cluster variability tends to decrease with increasing cluster number, this result favors the new climate regions. Additionally, the new climate regions am shown to be superior to the NCDC climate, divisions in wont of between-cluster variability. These results suggest that the NCDC climate divisions could be redefined, improving their climatic homogeneity.

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Hyodae Seo, Arthur J. Miller, and John O. Roads

Abstract

A regional coupled ocean–atmosphere model is introduced. It is designed to admit the air–sea feedbacks arising in the presence of an oceanic mesoscale eddy field. It consists of the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) and the Regional Spectral Model (RSM). Large-scale forcing is provided by NCEP/DOE reanalysis fields, which have physics consistent with the RSM. Coupling allows the sea surface temperature (SST) to influence the stability of the atmospheric boundary layer and, hence, the surface wind stress and heat flux fields. The system is denominated the Scripps Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Regional (SCOAR) Model.

The model is tested in three scenarios in the eastern Pacific Ocean sector: tropical instability waves of the eastern tropical Pacific, mesoscale eddies and fronts of the California Current System, and gap winds of the Central American coast. Recent observational evidence suggests air–sea interactions involving the oceanic mesoscale in these three regions. Evolving SST fronts are shown to drive an unambiguous response of the atmospheric boundary layer in the coupled model. This results in significant model anomalies of wind stress curl, wind stress divergence, surface heat flux, and precipitation that resemble the observations and substantiate the importance of ocean–atmosphere feedbacks involving the oceanic mesoscale.

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Arthur J. Miller, Tim P. Barnett, and Nicholas E. Graham

Abstract

Tropical Pacific SST hindcasts are examined in the Zebiak and Cane (Lamont), Latif (MPIZ), Oberhuber (OPYC), and GFDL ocean models, each forced by the same wind-stress fields over the 1970–85 time interval. Skill scores reveal that, although all the models exhibit significant skill, the regions where the skill is maximized differ from model to model. The simplest model (Lamont) has maximum skills in the eastern basin near the boundary while the three GCMs have maxima in central Pacific regions. We also examine, via canonical correlation analysis (CCA), the heat budgets of the surface layers of the Lamont, MPIZ, and OPYC models. We find that although similar spatial relationships exist for the mechanisms that excite SST anomalies (i.e., zonal advection, meridional advection, and vertical advection/mixing), the balance of the strength of them terms is different for each model. Vertical advection tends to control the large-scale structure of SST in the Lamont model, meridional advection provides the dominant large-scale forcing for SST anomalies in the MPIZ model, and all three terms are important in the region of developing SST in the OPYC model. CCA reconstructions of the El Niño events of 1972–73 and 1982–83 reveal that the Lamont model does not exhibit any clear eastward propagation of SST; the MPIZ model propagates SST anomalies eastward for both the 1972–73 and 1982–83 El Niño events while the OPYC model propagates SST eastward for the 1982–83 El Niño and develops SST in place for the 1972–73 El Niño.

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