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Zhengyu Liu, Na Wen, and Yun Liu

Abstract

A statistical method is developed to assess the full climate feedback of nonlocal climate feedbacks. The method is a multivariate generalization of the univariate equilibrium feedback assessment (EFA) method of Frankignoul et al. As a pilot study here, the generalized EFA (GEFA) is applied to the assessment of the feedback response of sea surface temperature (SST) on surface heat flux in a simple ocean–atmosphere model that includes atmospheric advection. It is shown that GEFA can capture major features of nonlocal climate feedback and sheds light on the dynamics of the atmospheric response, as long as the spatial resolution (or spatial degree of freedom) is not very high.

Given a sample size, sampling error tends to increase significantly with the spatial resolution of the data. As a result, useful estimates of the feedback can only be obtained at sufficiently low resolution. The sampling error is also found to increase significantly with the spatial scale of the atmospheric forcing and, in turn, the SST variability. This implies the potential difficulty in distinguishing the nonlocal feedbacks arising from small-scale SST variability. These deficiencies call for further improvements on the assessment methods for nonlocal climate feedbacks.

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Zhengyu Liu, Haijun Yang, and Qinyu Liu

Abstract

Dynamics of the seasonal cycle of sea surface height (SSH) in the South China Sea (SCS) are studied using observations as well as numerical and theoretical models. Seasonal variability of the SCS is interpreted in light of large-scale dynamics and Rossby waves. It is found that the seasonal cycle over most of the SCS basin is determined predominantly by the regional ocean dynamics within the SCS. The SSH variability is shown to be forced mainly by surface wind curl on baroclinic Rossby waves. Annual baroclinic Rossby waves cross the basin in less than a few months, leaving the upper ocean in a quasi-steady Sverdrup balance. An anomalous cyclonic (anticyclonic) gyre is generated in winter (summer) by the anomalous cyclonic (anticyclonic) wind curl that is associated with the northeasterly (southwesterly) monsoon. In addition, surface heat flux acts to enhance the wind-generated variability. The winter surface cooling (warming) cools (warms) the mixed layer especially in the central SCS, reducing (increasing) the SSH.

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Wei Liu, Zhengyu Liu, and Esther C. Brady

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This paper is concerned with the question: why do coupled general circulation models (CGCM) seem to be biased toward a monostable Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC)? In particular, the authors investigate whether the monostable behavior of the CGCMs is caused by a bias of model surface climatology. First observational literature is reviewed, and it is suggested that the AMOC is likely to be bistable in the real world in the past and present. Then the stability of the AMOC in the NCAR Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3) is studied by comparing the present-day control simulation (without flux adjustment) with a sensitivity experiment with flux adjustment. It is found that the monostable AMOC in the control simulation is altered to a bistable AMOC in the flux-adjustment experiment because a reduction of the surface salinity biases in the tropical and northern North Atlantic leads to a reduction of the bias of freshwater transport in the Atlantic. In particular, the tropical bias associated with the double ITCZ reduces salinity in the upper South Atlantic Ocean and, in turn, the AMOC freshwater export, which tends to overstabilize the AMOC and therefore biases the AMOC from bistable toward monostable state. This conclusion is consistent with a further analysis of the stability indicator of two groups of IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) CGCMs: one without and the other with flux adjustment. Because the tropical bias is a common feature among all CGCMs without flux adjustment, the authors propose that the surface climate bias, notably the tropical bias in the Atlantic, may contribute significantly to the monostability of AMOC behavior in current CGCMs.

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Steve Vavrus, Michael Notaro, and Zhengyu Liu

Abstract

The tropical Pacific’s response to transiently increasing atmospheric CO2 is investigated using three ensemble members from a numerically efficient, coupled atmosphere–ocean GCM. The model is forced with a 1% yr−1 increase in CO2 for 110 yr, when the concentration reaches 3 times the modern concentration. The transient greenhouse forcing causes a regionally enhanced warming of the equatorial Pacific, particularly in the far west. This accentuated equatorial heating, which is slow to arise but emerges abruptly during the last half of the simulations, results from both atmospheric and oceanic processes. The key atmospheric mechanism is a rapid local increase in the super–greenhouse effect, whose emergence coincides with enhanced convection and greater high cloud amount once the SST exceeds an apparent threshold around 27°C. The primary oceanic feedback is greater Ekman heat convergence near the equator, due to an anomalous near-equatorial westerly wind stress created by increased rising (sinking) air to the east (west) of Indonesia. The potential dependence of these results on the specific model used is discussed.

The suddenness and far-ranging impact of the enhanced, near-equatorial warming during these simulations suggests a mechanism by which abrupt climate changes may be triggered within the Tropics. The extratropical atmospheric response in the Pacific resembles anomalies during present-day El Niño events, while the timing and rapidity of the midlatitude changes are similar to those in the Tropics. In particular, a strengthening of the Pacific jet stream and a spinup of the wintertime Aleutian low seem to be forced by the changes in the tropical Pacific, much as they are in the modern climate.

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Haijun Yang, Zhengyu Liu, and Qiong Zhang

Abstract

Oceanic response to stochastic wind forcing is studied in a tropical–extratropical basin using two shallow water models: a periodically forced model and a time-forward model. Consistent with theory, extratropical stochastic wind forces a decadal spectral peak in the tropical and eastern boundary ocean as a resonant response of the planetary wave basin mode. This resonant response is characterized by a rather uniform amplitude and phase in the equatorial and eastern boundary region. In comparison, away from the eastern boundary, the extratropical ocean is affected significantly by the local Ekman pumping forcing, with spectral peaks varying with location. A complex EOF (CEOF) analysis of the time-forward model simulation further suggests that these resonant responses are robust, and can be extracted as the leading CEOF modes. Thus, the resonance of the planetary wave basin mode gives a physically based guideline for the interpretation of decadal oceanic variability in the tropical–extratropical ocean.

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Yafang Zhong, Zhengyu Liu, and Michael Notaro

Abstract

This paper presents a comprehensive assessment of the observed influence of the global ocean on U.S. precipitation variability using the method of Generalized Equilibrium Feedback Assessment (GEFA), which enables an unambiguous attribution of the influence from multiple ocean basins within a unified framework. The GEFA assessment based on observations for 1950–99 suggests that the tropical Pacific SST variability has the greatest consequence for U.S. precipitation, as both ENSO and meridional modes are associated with notable responses in seasonal mean precipitation. The anomalously cold tropical Indian Ocean is a good indicator for U.S. dry conditions during spring and late winter. The impact of North Pacific SST variability is detected in springtime precipitation, yet it is overshadowed by that of the tropical Indo-Pacific on seasonal-to-interannual time scales. Tropical Atlantic forcing of U.S. precipitation appears to be most effective in winter, whereas the northern Atlantic forcing is likely more important during spring and summer.

Global ocean influence on U.S. precipitation is found to be most significant in winter, explaining over 20% of the precipitation variability in the Southwest and southern Great Plains throughout the cold seasons and in the northern Great Plains and northeast United States during late winter. The Southwest and southern Great Plains is likely the region that is most susceptible to oceanic influence, primarily to the forcing of the tropical Indo-Pacific. The Pacific Northwest is among the regions that may experience the least oceanic influence as far as precipitation variability is concerned.

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Yafang Zhong, Zhengyu Liu, and R. Jacob

Abstract

Observations indicate that Pacific multidecadal variability (PMV) is a basinwide phenomenon with robust tropical–extratropical linkage, though its genesis remains the topic of much debate. In this study, the PMV in the Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3) is investigated with a combined statistical and dynamical approach. In agreement with observations, the modeled North Pacific climate system undergoes coherent multidecadal atmospheric and oceanic variability of a characteristic quasi-50-yr time scale, with apparent connections to the tropical Indo-Pacific.

The statistical assessment based on the CCSM3 control integration cannot exclusively identify the origin of the modeled multidecadal linkage, while confirming the two-way interactions between the tropical and extratropical Pacific. Two sensitivity experiments are performed to further investigate the origin of the PMV. With the atmosphere decoupled from the tropical ocean, multidecadal variability in the North Pacific climate remains outstanding. In contrast, without midlatitude oceanic feedback to atmosphere, an experiment shows much reduced multidecadal power in both extratropical atmosphere and surface ocean; moreover, the tropical multidecadal variability seen in the CCSM3 control run virtually disappears. The combined statistical and dynamical assessment supports a midlatitude coupled origin for the PMV, which can be described as follows: extratropical large-scale air–sea interaction gives rise to multidecadal variability in the North Pacific region; this extratropical signal then imprints itself in the tropical Indo–Pacific climate system, through a robust tropical–extratropical teleconnection. This study highlights a midlatitude origin of multidecadal tropical–extratropical linkage in the Pacific in the CCSM3.

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Michael Notaro, Steve Vavrus, and Zhengyu Liu

Abstract

Transient simulations are presented of future climate and vegetation associated with continued rising levels of CO2. The model is a fully coupled atmosphere–ocean–land–ice model with dynamic vegetation. The impacts of the radiative and physiological forcing of CO2 are diagnosed, along with the role of vegetation feedbacks. While the radiative effect of rising CO2 produces most of the warming, the physiological effect contributes additional warming by weakening the hydrologic cycle through reduced evapotranspiration. Both effects cause drying over tropical rain forests, while the radiative effect enhances Arctic and Indonesian precipitation.

A global greening trend is simulated primarily due to the physiological effect, with an increase in photosynthesis and total tree cover associated with enhanced water-use efficiency. In particular, tree cover is enhanced by the physiological effect over moisture-limited regions. Over Amazonia, South Africa, and Australia, the radiative forcing produces soil drying and reduced forest cover. A poleward shift of the boreal forest is simulated as both the radiative and physiological effects enhance vegetation growth in the northern tundra and the radiative effect induces drying and summertime heat stress on the central and southern boreal forest. Vegetation feedbacks substantially impact local temperature trends through changes in albedo and evapotranspiration. The physiological effect increases net biomass across most land areas, while the radiative effect results in an increase over the tundra and decrease over tropical forests and portions of the boreal forest.

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Yingying Zhao, Haijun Yang, and Zhengyu Liu

Abstract

The Bjerknes compensation (BJC) refers to the tendency for changes in the atmosphere heat transport (AHT) and ocean heat transport (OHT) to compensate each other. However, the nature of this compensation varies with the time scale of changes. In this study, a new approach was developed to diagnose BJC for climate variability by considering the correlation between AHT and OHT and their relative magnitudes. The correlation is equivalent to the cosine of phase difference between AHT and OHT. For high-frequency climate variability, AHT lags or leads OHT by π/2, the correlation is zero, and BJC does not occur concurrently. For low-frequency climate variability, AHT lags or leads OHT by π, the correlation is −1, and BJC is concurrent. With increasing time scale, the phase difference between AHT and OHT changes from π/2 to π, and the BJC reaches equilibrium. A coupled box model is used to justify the approach and to understand the temporal change of BJC from a theoretical perspective. The correlation and BJC rate derived from theory and from the box model exhibit similar transient behaviors, approaching equilibrium monotonically with increasing time scale. The equilibrium BJC is established at decadal time scale. Since the BJC is closely related to climate feedback, a proper identification of BJC processes in climate variability can reveal the nature of dominant climate feedback processes at different time scales.

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Zhengyu Liu and S. G. H. Philander

Abstract

An oceanic GCM is used to investigate the response of the tropical and subtropical thermocline circulation and structure to different wind stress patterns. Although the subtropical winds do not affect the transport or the speed of the Equatorial Undercurrent significantly, they do change the equatorial temperature field in the lower part of the equatorial thermocline significantly. A weaker subtropical wind curl causes a cooling of the subsurface equatorial region and, hence, an intensification of the equatorial thermocline. A weakening of the subtropical wind curl by a factor of 2 cools the equatorial lower thermocline water by 2°C.

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