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Dan L. Bergman, Linus Magnusson, Johan Nilsson, and Frederic Vitart

Abstract

A method has been developed to forecast seasonal landfall risk using ensembles of cyclone tracks generated by ECMWF’s seasonal forecast system 4. The method has been applied to analyze and retrospectively forecast the landfall risk along the North American coast. The main result is that the method can be used to forecast landfall for some parts of the coast, but the skill is lower than for basinwide forecasts of activity. The rank correlations between forecasts issued on 1 May and observations are 0.6 for basinwide tropical cyclone number and 0.5 for landfall anywhere along the coast. When the forecast period is limited to the peak of the hurricane season, the landfall correlation increases to 0.6. Moreover, when the forecast issue date is pushed forward to 1 August, basinwide tropical cyclone and hurricane correlations increase to 0.7 and 0.8, respectively, whereas landfall correlations improve less. The quality of the forecasts is in line with that obtained by others.

Open access
Johan Nilsson, David Ferreira, Tapio Schneider, and Robert C. J. Wills

Abstract

The high Atlantic surface salinity has sometimes been interpreted as a signature of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and an associated salt advection feedback. Here, the role of oceanic and atmospheric processes for creating the surface salinity difference between the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific is examined using observations and a conceptual model. In each basin, zonally averaged data are represented in diagrams relating net evaporation E˜ and surface salinity S. The data-pair curves in the E˜S plane share common features in both basins. However, the slopes of the curves are generally smaller in the Atlantic than in the Indo-Pacific, indicating a weaker sensitivity of the Atlantic surface salinity to net evaporation variations. To interpret these observations, a conceptual advective–diffusive model of the upper-ocean salinity is constructed. Notably, the E˜S relations can be qualitatively reproduced with only meridional diffusive salt transport. In this limit, the interbasin difference in salinity is caused by the spatial structure of net evaporation, which in the Indo-Pacific oceans contains lower meridional wavenumbers that are weakly damped by the diffusive transport. The observed Atlantic E˜S relationship at the surface reveals no clear influence of northward advection associated with the meridional overturning circulation; however, a signature of northward advection emerges in the relationship when the salinity is vertically averaged over the upper kilometer. The results indicate that the zonal-mean near-surface salinity is shaped primarily by the spatial pattern of net evaporation and the diffusive meridional salt transport due to wind-driven gyres and mesoscale ocean eddies, rather than by salt advection within the meridional overturning circulation.

Open access
Magnus Hieronymus, Jonas Nycander, Johan Nilsson, Kristofer Döös, and Robert Hallberg

Abstract

The role of oceanic background diapycnal diffusion for the equilibrium climate state is investigated in the global coupled climate model CM2G. Special emphasis is put on the oceanic meridional overturning and heat transport. Six runs with the model, differing only by their value of the background diffusivity, are run to steady state and the statistically steady integrations are compared. The diffusivity changes have large-scale impacts on many aspects of the climate system. Two examples are the volume-mean potential temperature, which increases by 3.6°C between the least and most diffusive runs, and the Antarctic sea ice extent, which decreases rapidly as the diffusivity increases. The overturning scaling with diffusivity is found to agree rather well with classical theoretical results for the upper but not for the lower cell. An alternative empirical scaling with the mixing energy is found to give good results for both cells. The oceanic meridional heat transport increases strongly with the diffusivity, an increase that can only partly be explained by increases in the meridional overturning. The increasing poleward oceanic heat transport is accompanied by a decrease in its atmospheric counterpart, which keeps the increase in the planetary energy transport small compared to that in the ocean.

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Per Pemberton, Johan Nilsson, Magnus Hieronymus, and H. E. Markus Meier

Abstract

In this paper, water mass transformations in the Arctic Ocean are studied using a recently developed salinity–temperature (ST) framework. The framework allows the water mass transformations to be succinctly quantified by computing the surface and internal diffusive fluxes in ST coordinates. This study shows how the method can be applied to a specific oceanic region, in this case the Arctic Ocean, by including the advective exchange of water masses across the boundaries of the region. Based on a simulation with a global ocean circulation model, the authors examine the importance of various parameterized mixing processes and surface fluxes for the transformation of water across isohaline and isothermal surfaces in the Arctic Ocean. The model-based results reveal a broadly realistic Arctic Ocean where the inflowing Atlantic and Pacific waters are primarily cooled and freshened before exiting back to the North Atlantic. In the model, the water mass transformation in the T direction is primarily accomplished by the surface heat flux. However, the surface freshwater flux plays a minor role in the transformation of water toward lower salinities, which is mainly driven by a downgradient mixing of salt in the interior ocean. Near the freezing line, the seasonal melt and growth of sea ice influences the transformation pattern.

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Kristofer Döös, Johan Nilsson, Jonas Nycander, Laurent Brodeau, and Maxime Ballarotta

Abstract

A new global streamfunction is presented and denoted the thermohaline streamfunction. This is defined as the volume transport in terms of temperature and salinity (hence no spatial variables). The streamfunction is used to analyze and quantify the entire World Ocean conversion rate between cold/warm and fresh/saline waters. It captures two main cells of the global thermohaline circulation, one corresponding to the conveyor belt and one corresponding to the shallow tropical circulation. The definition of a thermohaline streamfunction also enables a new method of estimating the turnover time as well as the heat and freshwater transports of the conveyor belt. The overturning time of the conveyor belt is estimated to be between 1000 and 2000 yr, depending on the choice of stream layer. The heat and freshwater transports of these two large thermohaline cells have been calculated by integrating the thermohaline streamfunction over the salinity or temperature, yielding a maximum heat transport of the conveyor belt of 1.2 PW over the 34.2-PSU salinity surface and a freshwater transport of 0.8 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) over the 9°C isotherm. This is a measure of the net interocean exchange of heat between the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific due to the thermohaline circulation.

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Johan Nilsson, Peter L. Langen, David Ferreira, and John Marshall

Abstract

A coupled atmosphere–sea ice–ocean model is used in an aqua-planet setting to examine the role of the basin geometry for the climate and ocean circulation. The basin geometry has a present-day-like topology with two idealized northern basins and a circumpolar ocean in the south. A suite of experiments is described in which the southward extents of the two (gridpoint wide) “continents” and the basin widths have been varied. When the two basins have identical shapes, the coupled model can attain a symmetric climate state with northern deep-water formation in both basins as well as asymmetric states, where the deep-water formation occurs only in one of the basins and Atlantic–Pacific-like hydrographic differences develop. A difference in the southward extents of the land barriers can enhance as well as reduce the zonal asymmetries of the atmosphere–ocean circulation. This arises from an interplay between the basin boundaries and the wind-driven Sverdrup circulation, which controls the interbasin exchange of heat and salt. Remarkably, when the short “African” continent is located near or equatorward of the zero wind line in the Southern Hemisphere, the deep-water formation becomes uniquely localized to the “Atlantic”-like basin with the long western boundary. In this case, the salinification is accomplished primarily by a westward wind-routed interbasin salt transport. Furthermore, experiments using geometries with asymmetries in both continental extents and basin widths suggest that in the World Ocean these two fundamental basin asymmetries should independently be strong enough for uniquely localizing the Northern Hemisphere deep-water formation to the Atlantic Ocean.

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Adam H. Sobel, Johan Nilsson, and Lorenzo M. Polvani

Abstract

Horizontal temperature gradients are small in the tropical atmosphere, as a consequence of the smallness of the Coriolis parameter near the equator. This provides a strong constraint on both large-scale fluid dynamics and diabatic processes. This work is a step toward the construction of a balanced dynamical theory for the tropical circulation that is based on this constraint, and in which the diabatic processes are explicit and interactive.

The authors first derive the basic fluid-dynamical scaling under the weak temperature gradient (WTG) approximation in a shallow water system with a fixed mass source representing an externally imposed heating. This derivation follows an earlier similar one by Held and Hoskins, but extends the analysis to the nonlinear case (though on an f plane), examines the resulting system in more detail, and presents a solution for an axisymmetric “top-hat” forcing. The system is truly balanced, having no gravity waves, but is different from other balance models in that the heating is included a priori in the scaling.

The WTG scaling is then applied to a linear moist model in which the convective heating is controlled by a moisture variable that is advected by the flow. This moist model is derived from the Quasi-equilibrium Tropical Circulation Model (QTCM) equations of Neelin and Zeng but can be viewed as somewhat more general. A number of additional approximations are made in order to consider balanced dynamical modes, apparently not studied previously, which owe their existence to interactions of the moisture and flow fields. A particularly interesting mode arises on an f plane with a constant background moisture gradient. In the limit of low frequency and zero meridional wavenumber this mode has a dispersion relation mathematically identical to that of a barotropic Rossby wave, though the phase speed is eastward (for moisture decreasing poleward in the background state) and the propagation mechanism is quite different. This mode also has significant positive growth rate for low wavenumbers. The addition of the β effect complicates matters. For typical parameters, when β is included the direction of phase propagation is ambiguous, and the growth rate reduced, as the effects of the background gradients in moisture and planetary vorticity appear to cancel to a large degree. Possible relevance to intraseasonal variability and easterly wave dynamics is briefly discussed.

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Marcus Löfverström, Rodrigo Caballero, Johan Nilsson, and Gabriele Messori

Abstract

Current estimates of the height of the Laurentide Ice Sheet (LIS) at the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) range from around 3000 to 4500 m. Modeling studies of the LGM, using low-end estimates of the LIS height, show a relatively weak and northeastward-tilted winter jet in the North Atlantic, similar to the modern jet, while simulations with high-end LIS elevations show a much more intense and zonally oriented jet. Here, an explanation for this response of the Atlantic circulation is sought using a sequence of LGM simulations spanning a broad range of LIS elevations. It is found that increasing LIS height favors planetary wave breaking and nonlinear reflection in the subtropical North Atlantic. For high LIS elevations, planetary wave reflection becomes sufficiently prevalent that a poleward-directed flux of wave activity appears in the climatology over the midlatitude North Atlantic. This entails a zonalization of the stationary wave phase lines and thus of the midlatitude jet.

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Liam Brannigan, Helen Johnson, Camille Lique, Jonas Nycander, and Johan Nilsson

Abstract

Isolated anticyclones are frequently observed below the mixed layer in the Arctic Ocean. Some of these subsurface anticyclones are thought to originate at surface fronts. However, previous idealized simulations with no surface stress show that only cyclone–anticyclone dipoles can propagate away from baroclinically unstable surface fronts. Numerical simulations of fronts subject to a surface stress presented here show that a surface stress in the same direction as the geostrophic flow inhibits dipole propagation away from the front. On the other hand, a surface stress in the opposite direction to the geostrophic flow helps dipoles to propagate away from the front. Regardless of the surface stress at the point of dipole formation, these dipoles can be broken up on a time scale of days when a surface stress is applied in the right direction. The dipole breakup leads to the deeper anticyclonic component becoming an isolated subsurface eddy. The breakup of the dipole occurs because the cyclonic component of the dipole in the mixed layer is subject to an additional advection because of the Ekman flow. When the Ekman transport has a component oriented from the anticyclonic part of the dipole toward the cyclonic part then the cyclone is advected away from the anticyclone and the dipole is broken up. When the Ekman transport is in other directions relative to the dipole axis, it also leads to deviations in the trajectory of the dipole. A scaling is presented for the rate at which the surface cyclone is advected that holds across a range of mixed layer depths and surface stress magnitudes in these simulations. The results may be relevant to other regions of the ocean with similar near-surface stratification profiles.

Open access
Marta Trodahl, Pål Erik Isachsen, Jonathan M. Lilly, Johan Nilsson, and Nils Melsom Kristensen

Abstract

Observations from the past decades have promoted the idea of a long-lived anticyclonic vortex residing in the Lofoten Basin. Despite repeatedly recorded intense anticyclones, the observations cannot firmly decide whether the signature is of a single vortex or a succession of ephemeral vortices. A vortex persisting for decades requires some reinvigoration mechanism. Wintertime convection and vortex merging have been proposed candidates. We examine Lofoten Basin vortex dynamics using a high-resolution regional ocean model. The model is initialized from a coarser state with a weak eddy field. The slope current intensifies and sheds anticyclonic eddies that drift into the basin. After half a year, an anticyclone arrives at the center, providing the nucleus for a vortex that remains distinct throughout the simulation. Analyses show that this vortex is regenerated by repeated absorption and vertical stacking of lighter anticyclones. This compresses and—in concert with potential vorticity conservation—intensifies the combined vortex, which becomes more vertically stratified and also expels some fluid in the process. Wintertime convection serves mainly to vertically homogenize and densify the vortex, rather than intensifying it. Further, topographic guiding of anticyclones shed from the continental slope is vital for the existence and reinvigoration of the Lofoten vortex. These results offer a new perspective on the regeneration of oceanic anticyclones. In this scenario the Lofoten vortex is maintained through repeated merging events. Fluid remains gradually exchanged, although the vortex is identifiable as a persistent extremum in potential vorticity.

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