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James W. Hurrell, Gerald A. Meehl, Dave Bader, Thomas L. Delworth, Ben Kirtman, and Bruce Wielick

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Rym Msadek, William E. Johns, Stephen G. Yeager, Gokhan Danabasoglu, Thomas L. Delworth, and Anthony Rosati

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The link at 26.5°N between the Atlantic meridional heat transport (MHT) and the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is investigated in two climate models, the GFDL Climate Model version 2.1 (CM2.1) and the NCAR Community Climate System Model version 4 (CCSM4), and compared with the recent observational estimates from the Rapid Climate Change–Meridional Overturning Circulation and Heatflux Array (RAPID–MOCHA) array. Despite a stronger-than-observed MOC magnitude, both models underestimate the mean MHT at 26.5°N because of an overly diffuse thermocline. Biases result from errors in both overturning and gyre components of the MHT. The observed linear relationship between MHT and MOC at 26.5°N is realistically simulated by the two models and is mainly due to the overturning component of the MHT. Fluctuations in overturning MHT are dominated by Ekman transport variability in CM2.1 and CCSM4, whereas baroclinic geostrophic transport variability plays a larger role in RAPID. CCSM4, which has a parameterization of Nordic Sea overflows and thus a more realistic North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) penetration, shows smaller biases in the overturning heat transport than CM2.1 owing to deeper NADW at colder temperatures. The horizontal gyre heat transport and its sensitivity to the MOC are poorly represented in both models. The wind-driven gyre heat transport is northward in observations at 26.5°N, whereas it is weakly southward in both models, reducing the total MHT. This study emphasizes model biases that are responsible for the too-weak MHT, particularly at the western boundary. The use of direct MHT observations through RAPID allows for identification of the source of the too-weak MHT in the two models, a bias shared by a number of Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) coupled models.

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Liping Zhang, Thomas L. Delworth, William Cooke, Hugues Goosse, Mitchell Bushuk, Yushi Morioka, and Xiaosong Yang

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Previous studies have shown the existence of internal multidecadal variability in the Southern Ocean using multiple climate models. This variability, associated with deep ocean convection, can have significant climate impacts. In this work, we use sensitivity studies based on Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) models to investigate the linkage of this internal variability with the background ocean mean state. We find that mean ocean stratification in the subpolar region that is dominated by mean salinity influences whether this variability occurs, as well as its time scale. The weakening of background stratification favors the occurrence of deep convection. For background stratification states in which the low-frequency variability occurs, weaker ocean stratification corresponds to shorter periods of variability and vice versa. The amplitude of convection variability is largely determined by the amount of heat that can accumulate in the subsurface ocean during periods of the oscillation without deep convection. A larger accumulation of heat in the subsurface reservoir corresponds to a larger amplitude of variability. The subsurface heat buildup is a balance between advection that supplies heat to the reservoir and vertical mixing/convection that depletes it. Subsurface heat accumulation can be intensified both by an enhanced horizontal temperature advection by the Weddell Gyre and by an enhanced ocean stratification leading to reduced vertical mixing and surface heat loss. The paleoclimate records over Antarctica indicate that this multidecadal variability has very likely happened in past climates and that the period of this variability may shift with different climate background mean state.

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Lakshmi Krishnamurthy, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Rym Msadek, Andrew Wittenberg, Thomas L. Delworth, and Fanrong Zeng

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This study investigates the seasonality of the relationship between the Great Plains low-level jet (GPLLJ) and the Pacific Ocean from spring to summer, using observational analysis and coupled model experiments. The observed GPLLJ and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) relation undergoes seasonal changes with a stronger GPLLJ associated with La Niña in boreal spring and El Niño in boreal summer. The ability of the GFDL Forecast-Oriented Low Ocean Resolution (FLOR) global coupled climate model, which has the high-resolution atmospheric and land components, to simulate the observed seasonality in the GPLLJ–ENSO relationship is assessed. The importance of simulating the magnitude and phase locking of ENSO accurately in order to better simulate its seasonal teleconnections with the Intra-Americas Sea (IAS) is demonstrated. This study explores the mechanisms for seasonal changes in the GPLLJ–ENSO relation in model and observations. It is hypothesized that ENSO affects the GPLLJ variability through the Caribbean low-level jet (CLLJ) during the summer and spring seasons. These results suggest that climate models with improved ENSO variability would advance our ability to simulate and predict seasonal variations of the GPLLJ and their associated impacts on the United States.

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Xinrong Wu, Shaoqing Zhang, Zhengyu Liu, Anthony Rosati, Thomas L. Delworth, and Yun Liu

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Because of the geographic dependence of model sensitivities and observing systems, allowing optimized parameter values to vary geographically may significantly enhance the signal in parameter estimation. Using an intermediate atmosphere–ocean–land coupled model, the impact of geographic dependence of model sensitivities on parameter optimization is explored within a twin-experiment framework. The coupled model consists of a 1-layer global barotropic atmosphere model, a 1.5-layer baroclinic ocean including a slab mixed layer with simulated upwelling by a streamfunction equation, and a simple land model. The assimilation model is biased by erroneously setting the values of all model parameters. The four most sensitive parameters identified by sensitivity studies are used to perform traditional single-value parameter estimation and new geographic-dependent parameter optimization. Results show that the new parameter optimization significantly improves the quality of state estimates compared to the traditional scheme, with reductions of root-mean-square errors as 41%, 23%, 62%, and 59% for the atmospheric streamfunction, the oceanic streamfunction, sea surface temperature, and land surface temperature, respectively. Consistently, the new parameter optimization greatly improves the model predictability as a result of the improvement of initial conditions and the enhancement of observational signals in optimized parameters. These results suggest that the proposed geographic-dependent parameter optimization scheme may provide a new perspective when a coupled general circulation model is used for climate estimation and prediction.

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Frederic S. Castruccio, Yohan Ruprich-Robert, Stephen G. Yeager, Gokhan Danabasoglu, Rym Msadek, and Thomas L. Delworth

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Observed September Arctic sea ice has declined sharply over the satellite era. While most climate models forced by observed external forcing simulate a decline, few show trends matching the observations, suggesting either model deficiencies or significant contributions from internal variability. Using a set of perturbed climate model experiments, we provide evidence that atmospheric teleconnections associated with the Atlantic multidecadal variability (AMV) can drive low-frequency Arctic sea ice fluctuations. Even without AMV-related changes in ocean heat transport, AMV-like surface temperature anomalies lead to adjustments in atmospheric circulation patterns that produce similar Arctic sea ice changes in three different climate models. Positive AMV anomalies induce a decrease in the frequency of winter polar anticyclones, which is reflected both in the sea level pressure as a weakening of the Beaufort Sea high and in the surface temperature as warm anomalies in response to increased low-cloud cover. Positive AMV anomalies are also shown to favor an increased prevalence of an Arctic dipole–like sea level pressure pattern in late winter/early spring. The resulting anomalous winds drive anomalous ice motions (dynamic effect). Combined with the reduced winter sea ice formation (thermodynamic effect), the Arctic sea ice becomes thinner, younger, and more prone to melt in summer. Following a phase shift to positive AMV, the resulting atmospheric teleconnections can lead to a decadal ice thinning trend in the Arctic Ocean on the order of 8%–16% of the reconstructed long-term trend, and a decadal trend (decline) in September Arctic sea ice area of up to 21% of the observed long-term trend.

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Takeshi Doi, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Anthony J. Rosati, and Thomas L. Delworth

Abstract

Using two fully coupled ocean–atmosphere models—Climate Model version 2.1 (CM2.1), developed at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and Climate Model version 2.5 (CM2.5), a new high-resolution climate model based on CM2.1—the characteristics and sources of SST and precipitation biases associated with the Atlantic ITCZ have been investigated.

CM2.5 has an improved simulation of the annual mean and the annual cycle of the rainfall over the Sahel and northern South America, while CM2.1 shows excessive Sahel rainfall and lack of northern South America rainfall in boreal summer. This marked improvement in CM2.5 is due to not only high-resolved orography but also a significant reduction of biases in the seasonal meridional migration of the ITCZ. In particular, the seasonal northward migration of the ITCZ in boreal summer is coupled to the seasonal variation of SST and a subsurface doming of the thermocline in the northeastern tropical Atlantic, known as the Guinea Dome. Improvements in the ITCZ allow for better representation of the coupled processes that are important for an abrupt seasonally phase-locked decay of the interannual SST anomaly in the northern tropical Atlantic.

Nevertheless, the differences between CM2.5 and CM2.1 were not sufficient to reduce the warm SST biases in the eastern equatorial region and Angola–Benguela area. The weak bias of southerly winds along the southwestern African coast associated with the excessive southward migration bias of the ITCZ may be a key to improve the warm SST biases there.

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Honghai Zhang, Thomas L. Delworth, Fanrong Zeng, Gabriel Vecchi, Karen Paffendorf, and Liwei Jia

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Observed austral summertime (November through April) rainfall in southeastern South America (SESA)—including northern Argentina, Uruguay, southern Brazil, and Paraguay—has exhibited substantial low-frequency variations with a multidecadal moistening trend during the twentieth century and a subsequent decadal drying trend during the current century. Understanding the mechanisms responsible for these variations is essential for predicting long-term rainfall changes. Here with a suite of attribution experiments using a pair of high-resolution global climate models, GFDL CM2.5 and FLOR-FA, the authors investigate the causes of these regional rainfall variations. Both models reproduce the twentieth-century moistening trend, albeit with a weaker magnitude than observed, in response to the radiative forcing associated with increasing greenhouse gases. The increasing greenhouse gases drive tropical expansion; consequently, the subtropical dry branch of Hadley cell moves away from SESA, leading to the rainfall increase. The amplitude discrepancy between the observed and simulated rainfall changes suggests a possible underestimation by the models of the atmospheric response to the radiative forcing, as well as an important role for low-frequency internal variability in the observed moistening trend. Over the current century, increasing greenhouse gases drive a continuous SESA rainfall increase in the models. However, the observed decadal rainfall decline is largely (~60%) reproduced in response to the observed Pacific trade wind strengthening, which is likely associated with natural Pacific decadal variability. These results suggest that the recent summertime rainfall decline in SESA is temporary and that the positive trend will resume in response to both increasing greenhouse gases and a return of Pacific trade winds to normal conditions.

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Riccardo Farneti, Thomas L. Delworth, Anthony J. Rosati, Stephen M. Griffies, and Fanrong Zeng

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Simulations from a fine-resolution global coupled model, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model, version 2.4 (CM2.4), are presented, and the results are compared with a coarse version of the same coupled model, CM2.1, under idealized climate change scenarios. A particular focus is given to the dynamical response of the Southern Ocean and the role played by the eddies—parameterized or permitted—in setting the residual circulation and meridional density structure. Compared to the case in which eddies are parameterized and consistent with recent observational and idealized modeling studies, the eddy-permitting integrations of CM2.4 show that eddy activity is greatly energized with increasing mechanical and buoyancy forcings, buffering the ocean to atmospheric changes, and the magnitude of the residual oceanic circulation response is thus greatly reduced. Although compensation is far from being perfect, changes in poleward eddy fluxes partially compensate for the enhanced equatorward Ekman transport, leading to weak modifications in local isopycnal slopes, transport by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, and overturning circulation. Since the presence of active ocean eddy dynamics buffers the oceanic response to atmospheric changes, the associated atmospheric response to those reduced ocean changes is also weakened. Further, it is hypothesized that present numerical approaches for the parameterization of eddy-induced transports could be too restrictive and prevent coarse-resolution models from faithfully representing the eddy response to variability and change in the forcing fields.

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Hiroyuki Murakami, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Thomas L. Delworth, Karen Paffendorf, Liwei Jia, Richard Gudgel, and Fanrong Zeng
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