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Mathew Koll Roxy, Kapoor Ritika, Pascal Terray, and Sébastien Masson

Abstract

Recent studies have pointed out an increased warming over the Indian Ocean warm pool (the central-eastern Indian Ocean characterized by sea surface temperatures greater than 28.0°C) during the past half-century, although the reasons behind this monotonous warming are still debated. The results here reveal a larger picture—namely, that the western tropical Indian Ocean has been warming for more than a century, at a rate faster than any other region of the tropical oceans, and turns out to be the largest contributor to the overall trend in the global mean sea surface temperature (SST). During 1901–2012, while the Indian Ocean warm pool went through an increase of 0.7°C, the western Indian Ocean experienced anomalous warming of 1.2°C in summer SSTs. The warming of the generally cool western Indian Ocean against the rest of the tropical warm pool region alters the zonal SST gradients, and has the potential to change the Asian monsoon circulation and rainfall, as well as alter the marine food webs in this biologically productive region. The current study using observations and global coupled ocean–atmosphere model simulations gives compelling evidence that, besides direct contribution from greenhouse warming, the long-term warming trend over the western Indian Ocean during summer is highly dependent on the asymmetry in the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) teleconnection, and the positive SST skewness associated with ENSO during recent decades.

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Jing-Jia Luo, Sebastien Masson, Swadhin K. Behera, and Toshio Yamagata

Abstract

Using a fully coupled global ocean–atmosphere general circulation model assimilating only sea surface temperature, the authors found for the first time that several El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events over the past two decades can be predicted at lead times of up to 2 yr. The El Niño condition in the 1997/98 winter can be predicted to some extent up to about a 1½-yr lead but with a weak intensity and large phase delay in the prediction of the onset of this exceptionally strong event. This is attributed to the influence of active and intensive stochastic westerly wind bursts during late 1996 to mid-1997, which are generally unpredictable at seasonal time scales. The cold signals in the 1984/85 and 1999/2000 winters during the peak phases of the past two long-lasting La Niña events are predicted well up to a 2-yr lead. Amazingly, the mild El Niño–like event of 2002/03 is also predicted well up to a 2-yr lead, suggesting a link between the prolonged El Niño and the tropical Pacific decadal variability. Seasonal climate anomalies over vast parts of the globe during specific ENSO years are also realistically predicted up to a 2-yr lead for the first time.

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Jing-Jia Luo, Sebastien Masson, Swadhin Behera, and Toshio Yamagata

Abstract

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) has profound socioeconomic impacts on not only the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean but also various parts of the world. A forecast system is developed based on a relatively high-resolution coupled ocean–atmosphere GCM with only sea surface temperature (SST) information assimilated. Retrospective ensemble forecasts of the IOD index for the past two decades show skillful scores with up to a 3–4-month lead and a winter prediction barrier associated with its intrinsic strong seasonal phase locking. Prediction skills of the SST anomalies in both the eastern and western Indian Ocean are higher than those of the IOD index; this is because of the influences of ENSO, which is highly predictable. The model predicts the extreme positive IOD event in 1994 at a 2–3-season lead. The strong 1997 cold signal in the eastern pole, however, is not well predicted owing to errors in model initial subsurface conditions. The real-time forecast system with more ensembles successfully predicted the weak negative IOD event in the 2005 boreal fall and La Niña condition in the 2005/06 winter. Recent experimental real-time forecasts showed that a positive IOD event would appear in the 2006 summer and fall accompanied by a possible weak El Niño condition in the equatorial Pacific.

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Tomoki Tozuka, Jing-Jia Luo, Sebastien Masson, and Toshio Yamagata

Abstract

Using outputs from the SINTEX-F1 coupled GCM, the thermodynamics of ENSO events and its relation with the seasonal cycle are investigated. Simulated El Niño events are first classified into four groups depending on during which season the Niño-3.4 sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) index (5°S–5°N, 120°–170°W) reaches its peak. Although the heat content of the tropical Pacific decreases for all four types, the tropical Pacific loses about twice as much during an El Niño that peaks during winter compared with one that peaks during summer. The surface heat flux, the southward heat transport at 15°S, and the Indonesian Throughflow heat transport contribute constructively to this remarkable seasonal difference. It is shown that the Indonesian Throughflow supplies anomalous heat from the Indian Ocean, especially during the summer El Niño–like event. Changes in the basic state provided by the seasonal cycle cause differences in the atmospheric response to the SSTA, which in turn lead to the difference between the surface heat flux and the meridional heat transport anomaly.

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Tomoki Tozuka, Jing-Jia Luo, Sebastien Masson, and Toshio Yamagata

Abstract

The decadal variation in the tropical Indian Ocean is investigated using outputs from a 200-yr integration of the Scale Interaction Experiment-Frontier Research Center for Global Change (SINTEX-F1) ocean–atmosphere coupled model. The first EOF mode of the decadal bandpass- (9–35 yr) filtered sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) represents a basinwide mode and is closely related with the Pacific ENSO-like decadal variability. The second EOF mode shows a clear east–west SSTA dipole pattern similar to that of the interannual Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) and may be termed the decadal IOD. However, it is demonstrated that the decadal air–sea interaction in the Tropics can be a statistical artifact; it should be interpreted more correctly as decadal modulation of interannual IOD events (i.e., asymmetric or skewed occurrence of positive and negative events). Heat budget analysis has revealed that the occurrence of IOD events is governed by variations in the southward Ekman heat transport across 15°S and variations in the Indonesian Throughflow associated with the ENSO. The variations in the southward Ekman heat transport are related to the Mascarene high activities.

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Jing-Jia Luo, Sebastien Masson, Erich Roeckner, Gurvan Madec, and Toshio Yamagata

Abstract

The cold tongue in the tropical Pacific extends too far west in most current ocean–atmosphere coupled GCMs (CGCMs). This bias also exists in the relatively high-resolution SINTEX-F CGCM despite its remarkable performance of simulating ENSO variations. In terms of the importance of air–sea interactions to the climatology formation in the tropical Pacific, several sensitivity experiments with improved coupling physics have been performed in order to reduce the cold-tongue bias in CGCMs.

By allowing for momentum transfer of the ocean surface current to the atmosphere [full coupled simulation (FCPL)] or merely reducing the wind stress by taking the surface current into account in the bulk formula [semicoupled simulation (semi-CPL)], the warm-pool/cold-tongue structure in the equatorial Pacific is simulated better than that of the control simulation (CTL) in which the movement of the ocean surface is ignored for wind stress calculation. The reduced surface zonal current and vertical entrainment owing to the reduced easterly wind stress tend to produce a warmer sea surface temperature (SST) in the western equatorial Pacific. Consequently, the dry bias there is much reduced. The warming tendency of the SST in the eastern Pacific, however, is largely suppressed by isopycnal diffusion and meridional advection of colder SST from south of the equator due to enhanced coastal upwelling near Peru. The ENSO signal in the western Pacific and its global teleconnection in the North Pacific are simulated more realistically.

The approach as adopted in the FCPL run is able to generate a correct zonal SST slope and efficiently reduce the cold-tongue bias in the equatorial Pacific. The surface easterly wind itself in the FCPL run is weakened, reducing the easterly wind stress further. This is related with a weakened zonal Walker cell in the atmospheric boundary layer over the eastern Pacific and a new global angular momentum balance of the atmosphere associated with reduced westerly wind stress over the southern oceans.

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Lionel Renault, M. Jeroen Molemaker, Jonathan Gula, Sebastien Masson, and James C. McWilliams

Abstract

The Gulf Stream (GS) is known to have a strong influence on climate, for example, by transporting heat from the tropics to higher latitudes. Although the GS transport intensity presents a clear interannual variability, satellite observations reveal its mean path is stable. Numerical models can simulate some characteristics of the mean GS path, but persistent biases keep the GS separation and postseparation unstable and therefore unrealistic. This study investigates how the integration of ocean surface currents into the ocean–atmosphere coupling interface of numerical models impacts the GS. The authors show for the first time that the current feedback, through its eddy killing effect, stabilizes the GS separation and postseparation, resolving long-lasting biases in modeled GS path, at least for the Regional Oceanic Modeling System (ROMS). This key process should therefore be taken into account in oceanic numerical models. Using a set of oceanic and atmospheric coupled and uncoupled simulations, this study shows that the current feedback, by modulating the energy transfer from the atmosphere to the ocean, has two main effects on the ocean. On one hand, by reducing the mean surface stress and thus weakening the mean geostrophic wind work by 30%, the current feedback slows down the whole North Atlantic oceanic gyre, making the GS narrower and its transport weaker. Yet, on the other hand, the current feedback acts as an oceanic eddy killer, reducing the surface eddy kinetic energy by 27%. By inducing a surface stress curl opposite to the current vorticity, it deflects energy from the geostrophic current into the atmosphere and dampens eddies.

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Jing-Jia Luo, Sebastien Masson, Swadhin Behera, Satoru Shingu, and Toshio Yamagata

Abstract

Predictabilities of tropical climate signals are investigated using a relatively high resolution Scale Interaction Experiment–Frontier Research Center for Global Change (FRCGC) coupled GCM (SINTEX-F). Five ensemble forecast members are generated by perturbing the model’s coupling physics, which accounts for the uncertainties of both initial conditions and model physics. Because of the model’s good performance in simulating the climatology and ENSO in the tropical Pacific, a simple coupled SST-nudging scheme generates realistic thermocline and surface wind variations in the equatorial Pacific. Several westerly and easterly wind bursts in the western Pacific are also captured.

Hindcast results for the period 1982–2001 show a high predictability of ENSO. All past El Niño and La Niña events, including the strongest 1997/98 warm episode, are successfully predicted with the anomaly correlation coefficient (ACC) skill scores above 0.7 at the 12-month lead time. The predicted signals of some particular events, however, become weak with a delay in the phase at mid and long lead times. This is found to be related to the intraseasonal wind bursts that are unpredicted beyond a few months of lead time. The model forecasts also show a “spring prediction barrier” similar to that in observations. Spatial SST anomalies, teleconnection, and global drought/flood during three different phases of ENSO are successfully predicted at 9–12-month lead times.

In the tropical North Atlantic and southwestern Indian Ocean, where ENSO has predominant influences, the model shows skillful predictions at the 7–12-month lead times. The distinct signal of the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) event in 1994 is predicted at the 6-month lead time. SST anomalies near the western coast of Australia are also predicted beyond the 12-month lead time because of pronounced decadal signals there.

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Yushi Morioka, Tomoki Tozuka, Sebastien Masson, Pascal Terray, Jing-Jia Luo, and Toshio Yamagata

Abstract

The growth and decay mechanisms of subtropical dipole modes in the southern Indian and South Atlantic Oceans and their impacts on southern African rainfall are investigated using results from a coupled general circulation model originally developed for predicting tropical climate variations. The second (most) dominant mode of interannual sea surface temperature (SST) variations in the southern Indian (South Atlantic) Ocean represents a northeast–southwest oriented dipole, now called subtropical dipole mode. The positive (negative) SST interannual anomaly pole starts to grow in austral spring and reaches its peak in February. In austral late spring, the suppressed (enhanced) latent heat flux loss associated with the variations in the subtropical high causes a thinner (thicker) than normal mixed layer thickness that, in turn, enhances (reduces) the warming of the mixed layer by the climatological shortwave radiation. The positive (negative) pole gradually decays in austral fall because the mixed layer cooling by the entrainment is enhanced (reduced), mostly owing to the larger (smaller) temperature difference between the mixed layer and the entrained water. The increased (decreased) latent heat loss due to the warmer (colder) SST also contributes to the decay of the positive (negative) pole. Although further verification using longer observational data is required, the present coupled model suggests that the South Atlantic subtropical dipole may play a more important role in rainfall variations over the southern African region than the Indian Ocean subtropical dipole.

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Swen Jullien, Sébastien Masson, Véra Oerder, Guillaume Samson, François Colas, and Lionel Renault

Abstract

Ocean mesoscale eddies are characterized by rotating-like and meandering currents that imprint the low-level atmosphere. Such a current feedback (CFB) has been shown to induce a sink of energy from the ocean to the atmosphere, and consequently to damp the eddy kinetic energy (EKE), with an apparent regional disparity. In a context of increasing model resolution, the importance of this feedback and its dependence on oceanic and atmospheric model resolution arise. Using a hierarchy of quasi-global coupled models with spatial resolutions varying from 1/4° to 1/12°, the present study shows that the CFB induces a negative wind work at scales ranging from 100 to 1000 km, and a subsequent damping of the mesoscale activity by ~30% on average, independently of the model resolution. Regional variations of this damping range from ~20% in very rich eddying regions to ~40% in poor eddying regions. This regional modulation is associated with a different balance between the sink of energy by eddy wind work and the source of EKE by ocean intrinsic instabilities. The efficiency of the CFB is also shown to be a function of the surface wind magnitude: the larger the wind, the larger the sink of energy. The CFB impact is thus related to both wind and EKE. Its correct representation requires both an ocean model that resolves the mesoscale field adequately and an atmospheric model resolution that matches the ocean effective resolution and allows a realistic representation of wind patterns. These results are crucial for including adequately mesoscale ocean–atmosphere interactions in coupled general circulation models and have strong implications in climate research.

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