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Enver Ramirez, Pedro L. da Silva Dias, and Carlos F. M. Raupp


In the present study a simplified multiscale atmosphere–ocean coupled model for the tropical interactions among synoptic, intraseasonal, and interannual scales is developed. Two nonlinear equatorial β-plane shallow-water equations are considered: one for the ocean and the other for the atmosphere. The nonlinear terms are the intrinsic advective nonlinearity and the air–sea coupling fluxes. To mimic the main differences between the fast atmosphere and the slow ocean, suitable anisotropic multispace/multitime scalings are applied, yielding a balanced synoptic–intraseasonal–interannual–El Niño (SInEN) regime. In this distinguished balanced regime, the synoptic scale is the fastest atmospheric time scale, the intraseasonal scale is the intermediate air–sea coupling time scale (common to both fluid flows), and El Niño refers to the slowest interannual ocean time scale. The asymptotic SInEN equations reveal that the slow wave amplitude evolution depends on both types of nonlinearities. Analytic solutions of the reduced SInEN equations for a single atmosphere–ocean resonant triad illustrate the potential of the model to understand slow-frequency variability in the tropics. The resonant nonlinear wind stress allows a mechanism for the synoptic-scale atmospheric waves to force intraseasonal variability in the ocean. The intraseasonal ocean temperature anomaly coupled with the atmosphere through evaporation forces synoptic and intraseasonal atmospheric variability. The wave–convection coupling provides another source for higher-order atmospheric variability. Nonlinear interactions of intraseasonal ocean perturbations may also force interannual oceanic variability. The constrains that determine the establishment of the atmosphere–ocean resonant coupling can be viewed as selection rules for the excitation of intraseasonal variability (MJO) or even slower interannual variability (El Niño).

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