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Huijun Yang and Zhengyu Liu

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to renew interest in the Lagrangian view of global and basin ocean circulations and its implications in physical and biogeochemical ocean processes. The paper examines the Lagrangian transport, mixing, and chaos in a simple, laminar, three-dimensional, steady, basin-scale oceanic flow consisting of the gyre and the thermohaline circulation mode. The Lagrangian structure of this flow could not be chaotic if the steady oceanic flow consists of only either one of the two modes nor if the flow is zonally symmetric, such as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. However, when both the modes are present, the Lagrangian structure of the flow is chaotic, resulting in chaotic trajectories and providing the enhanced transport and mixing and microstructure of a tracer field. The Lagrangian trajectory and tracer experiments show the great complexity of the Lagrangian geometric structure of the flow field and demonstrate the complicated transport and mixing processes in the World Ocean. The finite-time Lyapunov exponent analysis has successfully characterized the Lagrangian nature. One of the most important findings is the distinct large-scale barrier—which the authors term the great ocean barrier—within the ocean interior with upper and lower branches, as remnants of the Kolmogorov–Arnold–Moser (KAM) invariant surfaces. The most fundamental reasons for such Lagrangian structure are the intrinsic nature of the long time mean, global and basin-scale oceanic flow: the three-dimensionality and incompressibility giving rise to chaos and to the great ocean barrier, respectively. Implications of these results are discussed, from the great ocean conveyor hypothesis to the predictability of the (quasi) Lagrangian drifters and floats in the climate observing system.

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Zhengyu Liu and Na Wen

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The equilibrium feedback assessment (EFA) is combined with the singular value decomposition (SVD) to assess the large-scale feedback modes from a lower boundary variability field onto an atmospheric field. The leading EFA-SVD modes are the optimal feedback modes, with the lower boundary forcing patterns corresponding to those that generate the largest atmospheric responses, and therefore provide upper bounds of the feedback response. The application of EFA-SVD to an idealized coupled ocean–atmosphere model demonstrates that EFA-SVD is able to extract the leading feedback modes successfully. Furthermore, these large-scale modes are the least sensitive to sampling errors among all the feedback processes and therefore are the most robust for statistical estimation. The EFA-SVD is then applied to the observed North Atlantic ocean–atmosphere system for the assessment of the sea surface temperature (SST) feedback on the surface heat flux and the geopotential height, respectively. The dominant local negative feedback of SST on heat flux is confirmed, with an upper bound of about 40 W m−2 K−1 for basin-scale anomalies. The SST also seems to exert a strong feedback on the atmospheric geopotential height: the optimal SST forcing has a dipole pattern that generates an optimal response of a North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) pattern, with an upper bound of about 70 m K−1 at 500 hPa. Further issues on the EFA-SVD analysis are also discussed.

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Zhengyu Liu and Shangping Xie

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A simple coupled ocean–atmospheric boundary layer model is used to study the annual variability in the eastern tropical Pacific. The air–sea coupling, particularly the feedback of the total wind speed effect on evaporation and wind mixing entrainment, produces a rapid equatorward and westward propagation of annual disturbances. For reasonable parameters, both amplitude and phase of the annual disturbance can be reproduced fairly well over most of the Tropics. It is then suggested that a substantial part of equatorial annual variability may come from the extratropics (say beyond 15°) due to the propagation of coupled waves.

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Tomoko Inui and Zhengyu Liu

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An OGCM (MOM1) is used to examine the oceanic response to localized anomalous surface wind and buoyancy forcings. Wind stress and surface cooling anomalies are imposed at several different locations with respect to the positions of the mixed layer front and the LPVP (low potential vorticity path). Surface cooling locally creates sea surface temperature anomalies, which are subducted to the thermocline in remote places. The way in which wind anomalies affect the thermocline structure can be observed by using the following indicator. The LPVP is defined as a line that consists of water with minimum potential vorticity at each latitude. It is defined at each isopycnal surface and is affected through changes in the mixed layer depth or the position of the outcrop lines.

Sea surface height (SSH) anomalies created by localized anomalous wind stress forcing propagate westward at the same speed as the lower-thermocline depth anomalies, corresponding to the first baroclinic mode. When the forcing region is east of the LPVP, the depth of various isopycnal surfaces induces large variability in the region of the LPVP, caused either by propagation of the first baroclinic mode wave or variations in the mixed layer front position. These results imply that the subsurface temperature anomalies, associated with the change of isopycnal depths, are large in the vicinity of the LPVP, even if the wind stress anomaly is remote.

Previous studies suggest that propagation of subsurface temperature anomalies is forced primarily by surface cooling. In this work, the authors observe that temperature anomalies created by surface cooling primarily follow the subtropical circulation. However, it is shown that the subducted temperature anomalies may also be generated by remote wind-forcing effects, through their impact on the position of the LPVP.

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Yafang Zhong and Zhengyu Liu

Abstract

Previous analyses of the Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3) standard integration have revealed pronounced multidecadal variability in the Pacific climate system. The purpose of the present work is to investigate physical mechanism underlying this Pacific multidecadal variability (PMV). To better isolate the mechanism that selects the long multidecadal time scale for the PMV, a few specifically designed sensitivity experiments are carried out. When the propagating Rossby waves are blocked in the subtropics from the midbasin, the PMV remains outstanding. In contrast, when the Rossby waves are blocked beyond the subtropics across the entire North Pacific, the PMV is virtually suppressed. It suggests that the PMV relies on propagating Rossby waves in the subpolar Pacific, whereas those in the subtropics are not critical.

A novel mechanism of PMV is advanced based on a more comprehensive analysis, which is characterized by a crucial role of the subpolar North Pacific Ocean. The multidecadal ocean temperature and salinity anomalies may originate from the subsurface of the subpolar North Pacific because of the wave adjustment to the preceding basin-scale wind curl forcing. The anomalies then ascend to the surface and are amplified through local temperature–salinity convective feedback. Along the southward Oyashio, these anomalies travel to the Kuroshio Extension (KOE) region and are further intensified through a similar convective feedback. The oceanic temperature anomaly in the KOE is able to feed back to the large-scale atmospheric circulation, inducing a wind curl anomaly over the subpolar North Pacific, which in turn generates anomalous oceanic circulation and causes temperature and salinity variability in the subpolar subsurface. Thereby, a closed loop of PMV is established in the form of an extratropical delayed oscillator. The phase transition of PMV is driven by the delayed negative feedback that resides in the wave adjustment of the subpolar North Pacific via propagating Rossby waves, whereas the convective positive feedback provides the growth mechanism. A significant role of salinity variability is unveiled in both the delayed negative feedback and convective positive feedback.

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Boyin Huang and Zhengyu Liu

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The linear temperature trend of the last 40 yr (1955–94) in the upper Pacific Ocean above 400 m is studied using an objectively analyzed dataset and simulations of an ocean general circulation model. Both the data and simulations suggest a warming trend in the western tropical Pacific (10°S–10°N) near the surface and in the eastern tropical Pacific above 400 m but a cooling trend in the thermocline of the western tropical Pacific. In the midlatitude North Pacific (30°–50°N), the temperature trend is positive east of 150°W but negative to the west.

Simulated heat budget indicates that the temperature trend in the tropical Pacific may result from oceanic advection. In the central and western Pacific, the surface warming is associated with the reduction of cold advection from the off-equatorial divergent flow and the South Equatorial Current, while the cooling in the thermocline is related to the reduction of equatorward warm advection. In the eastern Pacific, the warming is associated with the reduction of upwelling. The reduction of these ocean currents, in turn, may result largely from the weakening of the trade winds.

In the midlatitude North Pacific, the ocean temperature trends similarly may result from the oceanic advection associated with the reduction of the westerlies. The effect of net surface heat flux into the ocean is a damping factor to the sea surface temperature. These studies highlight the importance of oceanic advection in producing long-term temperature trends.

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Zhengyu Liu and Huijun Yang

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The effect of the annual migration of the wind field on the intergyre transport is investigated in a double-gyre circulation. It is found that the trajectories of the water columns advected by the gyre-scale circulation exhibit a strongly chaotic behavior. The resulted cross-gyre chaotic transport amounts to about one-third of the Sverdrup transport.

The chaotic intergyre transport causes strong mixing between the two gyres. The study with a passive tracer shown that the equivalent diffusivity of the chaotic mixing is at the order of 107 cm2, s−1, comparable to that estimated for strong synoptical eddies in the region of the Gulf Stream. It is suggested that the chaotic transport may contribute significantly to the intergyre exchange.

Further parameter sensitivity studies show that the chaotic transport is the strongest under the migration with frequencies from interannual to decadal, and with the migration distance about 1000 km. Some possible applications of the chaotic transport to the general oceanic circulation are also discussed.

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Zhengyu Liu and Lixin Wu

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Atmospheric response to a midlatitude winter SST anomaly is studied in a coupled ocean–atmosphere general circulation model. The role of ocean–atmosphere coupling is examined with ensemble experiments of different coupling configurations. The atmospheric response is found to depend critically on ocean–atmosphere coupling. The full coupling experiment produces the strongest warm-ridge response and agrees the best with a statistical estimation of the atmospheric response. The fixed SST experiment and the thermodynamic coupling experiment also generate a warm-ridge response, but with a substantially weaker magnitude. This weaker warm-ridge response is associated with an excessive heat flux into the atmosphere, which tends to force an anomalous warm- low response and, therefore, weakens the warm-ridge response of the full coupling experiment.

This study suggests that the atmospheric response is associated with both the SST and heat flux. The SST forcing favors a warm-ridge response, while the heat flux forcing tends to be associated with a warm-low response. The correct atmospheric response is generated in the fully coupled model that produces the correct combination of SST and heat flux naturally.

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Zhengyu Liu and Boyin Huang

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Based on results from analytic and general circulation models, the authors propose a theory for the coupled warm pool, cold tongue, and Walker circulation system. The intensity of the coupled system is determined by the coupling strength, the local equilibrium time, and latitudinal differential heating. Most importantly, this intensity is strongly regulated in the coupled system, with a saturation level that can be reached at a modest coupling strength. The saturation west–east sea surface temperature difference (and the associated Walker circulation) corresponds to about one-quarter of the latitudinal differential equilibrium temperature. This regulation is caused primarily by the decoupling of the SST gradient from a strong ocean current. The author’s estimate suggests that the present Pacific is near the saturation state. Furthermore, the much weaker Walker circulation system in the Atlantic Ocean is interpreted as being the result of the influence of the adjacent land, which is able to extend into the entire Atlantic to change the zonal distribution of the trade wind. The theory is also applied to understand the tropical climatology in coupled GCM simulations, in the Last Glacial Maximum climate, and in the global warming climate, as well as in the regulation of the tropical sea surface temperature.

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Lixin Wu and Zhengyu Liu

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In this paper, the causes and mechanisms of North Atlantic decadal variability are explored in a series of coupled ocean–atmosphere simulations. The model captures the major features of the observed North Atlantic decadal variability. The North Atlantic SST anomalies in the model control simulation exhibit a prominent decadal cycle of 12–16 yr, and a coherent propagation from the western subtropical Atlantic to the subpolar region. A series of additional modeling experiments are conducted in which the air–sea coupling is systematically modified in order to evaluate the importance of air–sea coupling for the North Atlantic decadal variability being studied. This shall be referred to as “modeling surgery.” The results suggest the critical role of ocean–atmosphere coupling in sustaining the North Atlantic decadal oscillation at selected time scales. The coupling in the North Atlantic is characterized by a robust North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)-like atmospheric response to the SST tripole anomaly, which tends to intensify the SST anomaly and, meanwhile, also provide a delayed negative feedback. This delayed negative feedback is predominantly associated with the adjustment of the subtropical gyre in response to the anomalous wind stress curl in the subtropical Atlantic. Atmospheric stochastic forcing can drive SST patterns similar to those in the fully coupled ocean–atmosphere system, but fails to generate any preferred decadal time scales. The simulated North Atlantic decadal variability, therefore, can be viewed as a coupled ocean–atmosphere mode under the influence of stochastic forcing.

This modeling study also suggests some potential resonance between the Pacific and the North Atlantic decadal fluctuations mediated by the atmosphere. The modeling surgery indicates that the Pacific climate, although not a necessary precondition, can impact the North Atlantic climate variability substantially.

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