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Lei Zhang, Weiqing Han, and Zeng-Zhen Hu

Abstract

An unprecedented extreme positive Indian Ocean Dipole event (pIOD) occurred in 2019, which has caused widespread disastrous impacts on countries bordering the Indian Ocean, including the East African floods and vast bushfires in Australia. Here we investigate the causes for the 2019 pIOD by analyzing multiple observational datasets and performing numerical model experiments. We find that the 2019 pIOD is triggered in May by easterly wind bursts over the tropical Indian Ocean associated with the dry phase of the boreal summer intraseasonal oscillation, and sustained by the local atmosphere-ocean interaction thereafter. During September-November, warm sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTA) in the central-western tropical Pacific further enhance the Indian Ocean’s easterly winds, bringing the pIOD to an extreme magnitude. The central-western tropical Pacific warm SSTA is strengthened by two consecutive Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) events that originate from the tropical Indian Ocean. Our results highlight the important roles of cross-basin and cross-timescale interactions in generating extreme IOD events. The lack of accurate representation of these interactions may be the root for a short lead time in predicting this extreme pIOD with a state-of-the-art climate forecast model.

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Lei Zhang, Weiqing Han, and Frank Sienz

Abstract

Observations show that decadal (10–20 yr) to interdecadal (>20 yr) variability of the tropical Indian Ocean (TIO) sea surface temperature (SST) closely follows that of the Pacific until the 1960s. Since then, the TIO SST exhibits a persistent warming trend, whereas the Pacific SST shows large-amplitude fluctuations associated with the interdecadal Pacific oscillation (IPO), and the decadal variability of the TIO SST is out of phase with that of the Pacific after around 1980. Here causes for the changing behavior of the TIO SST are explored, by analyzing multiple observational datasets and the recently available large-ensemble simulations from two climate models. It is found that on interdecadal time scales, the persistent TIO warming trend is caused by emergence of anthropogenic warming overcoming internal variability, while the time of emergence occurs much later in the Pacific. On decadal time scales, two major tropical volcanic eruptions occurred in the 1980s and 1990s causing decadal SST cooling over the TIO during which the IPO was in warm phase, yielding the out-of-phase relation. The more evident fingerprints of external forcing in the TIO compared to the Pacific result from the much weaker TIO internal decadal–interdecadal variability, making the TIO prone to the external forcing. These results imply that the ongoing warming and natural external forcing may make the Indian Ocean more active, playing an increasingly important role in affecting regional and global climate.

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Lei Zhang, Weiqing Han, Yuanlong Li, and Eric D. Maloney

Abstract

Air–sea coupling processes over the north Indian Ocean associated with the Indian summer monsoon intraseasonal oscillation (MISO) are investigated. Observations show that MISO convection anomalies affect underlying sea surface temperature (SST) through changes in surface shortwave radiation and surface latent heat flux. In turn, SST anomalies may also affect the MISO precipitation tendency (dP/dt). In particular, warm (cold) SST anomalies can contribute to increasing (decreasing) precipitation rate through enhanced (suppressed) surface convergence associated with boundary layer pressure gradients. These air–sea interaction processes are manifest in a quadrature relation between MISO precipitation and SST anomalies. A local air–sea coupling model (LACM) is formulated based on these observed physical processes. The period of the LACM is proportional to the square root of seasonal mixed layer depth H, assuming other physical parameters remain unchanged. Hence, LACM predicts a relatively short (long) MISO period over the north Indian Ocean during the May–June monsoon developing (July–August monsoon mature) phase when H is shallow (deep). This result is consistent with observed MISO characteristics. A 30-day-period oscillating external forcing is also added to the LACM, representing intraseasonal oscillations propagating from the equatorial Indian Ocean to the north Indian Ocean. It is found that resonance will occur when H is close to 25 m, which significantly enhances the MISO amplitude. This process may contribute to the higher MISO amplitude during the monsoon developing phase compared to the mature phase, which is associated with the seasonal cycle of H.

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Lei Zhang, Weiqing Han, Yuanlong Li, and Nicole S. Lovenduski

Abstract

In this study, the Indian Ocean upper-ocean variability associated with the subtropical Indian Ocean dipole (SIOD) is investigated. We find that the SIOD is associated with a prominent southwest–northeast sea level anomaly (SLA) dipole over the western-central south Indian Ocean, with the north pole located in the Seychelles–Chagos thermocline ridge (SCTR) and the south pole at southeast of Madagascar, which is different from the distribution of the sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA). While the thermocline depth and upper-ocean heat content anomalies mirror SLAs, the air–sea CO2 flux anomalies associated with SIOD are controlled by SSTA. In the SCTR region, the westward propagation of oceanic Rossby waves generated by anomalous winds over the eastern tropical Indian Ocean is the major cause for the SLAs, with cyclonic wind causing negative SLAs during positive SIOD (pSIOD). Local wind forcing is the primary driver for the SLAs southeast of Madagascar, with anticyclonic winds causing positive SLAs. Since the SIOD is correlated with ENSO, the relative roles of the SIOD and ENSO are examined. We find that while ENSO can induce significant SLAs in the SCTR region through an atmospheric bridge, it has negligible impact on the SLA to the southeast of Madagascar. By contrast, the SIOD with ENSO influence removed is associated with an opposite SLA in the SCTR and southeast of Madagascar, corresponding to the SLA dipole identified above. A new subtropical dipole mode index (SDMI) is proposed, which is uncorrelated with ENSO and thus better represents the pure SIOD effect.

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Lei Zhang, Gang Wang, Matthew Newman, and Weiqing Han

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The Indian Ocean has received increasing attention for its large impacts on regional and global climate. However, sea surface temperature (SST) variability arising from Indian Ocean internal processes has not been well understood particularly on decadal and longer time scales, and the external influence from the tropical Pacific has not been quantified. This paper analyzes the interannual-to-decadal SST variability in the tropical Indian Ocean in observations and explores the external influence from the Pacific versus internal processes within the Indian Ocean using a linear inverse model (LIM). Coupling between Indian Ocean and tropical Pacific SST anomalies (SSTAs) is assessed both within the LIM dynamical operator and the unpredictable stochastic noise that forces the system. Results show that the observed Indian Ocean basin (IOB)-wide SSTA pattern is largely a response to the Pacific ENSO forcing, although it in turn has a damping effect on ENSO especially on annual and decadal time scales. On the other hand, the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) is an Indian Ocean internal mode that can actively affect ENSO; ENSO also has a returning effect on the IOD, which is rather weak on decadal time scale. The third mode is partly associated with the subtropical Indian Ocean dipole (SIOD), and it is primarily generated by Indian Ocean internal processes, although a small component of it is coupled with ENSO. Overall, the amplitude of Indian Ocean internally generated SST variability is comparable to that forced by ENSO, and the Indian Ocean tends to actively influence the tropical Pacific. These results suggest that the Indian–Pacific Ocean interaction is a two-way process.

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Lei Zhang, Weiqing Han, Yuanlong Li, and Toshiaki Shinoda

Abstract

Generation and development mechanisms of the Ningaloo Niño are investigated using ocean and atmospheric general circulation model experiments. Consistent with previous studies, northerly wind anomalies off the West Australian coast are critical in generating warm sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies of the Ningaloo Niño, which induce SST warming through reduced turbulent heat loss toward the atmosphere (by decreasing surface wind speed), enhanced Leeuwin Current heat transport, and weakened coastal upwelling. Our results further reveal that northerly wind anomalies suppress the cold dry air transport from the Southern Ocean to the Ningaloo Niño region, which also contributes to the reduced turbulent heat loss. A positive cloud–radiation feedback is also found to play a role. Low stratiform cloud is reduced by the underlying warm SSTAs and the weakened air subsidence, which further enhances the SST warming by increasing downward solar radiation. The enhanced Indonesian Throughflow also contributes to the Ningaloo Niño, but only when La Niña co-occurs. Further analysis show that northerly wind anomalies along the West Australian coast can be generated by both remote forcing from the Pacific Ocean (i.e., La Niña) and internal processes of the Indian Ocean, such as the positive Indian Ocean dipole (IOD). Approximately 40% of the Ningaloo Niño events during 1950–2010 co-occurred with La Niña, and 30% co-occurred with positive IOD. There are also ~30% of the events independent of La Niña and positive IOD, suggesting the importance of other processes in triggering the Ningaloo Niño.

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Yuanlong Li, Weiqing Han, Lei Zhang, and Fan Wang

Abstract

The southeast Indian Ocean (SEIO) exhibits decadal variability in sea surface temperature (SST) with amplitudes of ~0.2–0.3 K and covaries with the central Pacific (r = −0.63 with Niño-4 index for 1975–2010). In this study, the generation mechanisms of decadal SST variability are explored using an ocean general circulation model (OGCM), and its impact on atmosphere is evaluated using an atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM). OGCM experiments reveal that Pacific forcing through the Indonesian Throughflow explains <20% of the total SST variability, and the contribution of local wind stress is also small. These wind-forced anomalies mainly occur near the Western Australian coast. The majority of SST variability is attributed to surface heat fluxes. The reduced upward turbulent heat flux (Q T; latent plus sensible heat flux), owing to decreased wind speed and anomalous warm, moist air advection, is essential for the growth of warm SST anomalies (SSTAs). The warming causes reduction of low cloud cover that increases surface shortwave radiation (SWR) and further promotes the warming. However, the resultant high SST, along with the increased wind speed in the offshore area, enhances the upward Q T and begins to cool the ocean. Warm SSTAs co-occur with cyclonic low-level wind anomalies in the SEIO and enhanced rainfall over Indonesia and northwest Australia. AGCM experiments suggest that although the tropical Pacific SST has strong effects on the SEIO region through atmospheric teleconnection, the cyclonic winds and increased rainfall are mainly caused by the SEIO warming through local air–sea interactions.

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Yuanlong Li, Weiqing Han, Fan Wang, Lei Zhang, and Jing Duan

Abstract

Multi-time-scale variabilities of the Indian Ocean (IO) temperature over 0–700 m are revisited from the perspective of vertical structure. Analysis of historical data for 1955–2018 identifies two dominant types of vertical structures that account for respectively 70.5% and 21.2% of the total variance on interannual-to-interdecadal time scales with the linear trend and seasonal cycle removed. The leading type manifests as vertically coherent warming/cooling with the maximal amplitude at ~100 m and exhibits evident interdecadal variations. The second type shows a vertical dipole structure between the surface (0–60 m) and subsurface (60–400 m) layers and interannual-to-decadal fluctuations. Ocean model experiments were performed to gain insights into underlying processes. The vertically coherent, basinwide warming/cooling of the IO on an interdecadal time scale is caused by changes of the Indonesian Throughflow (ITF) controlled by Pacific climate and anomalous surface heat fluxes partly originating from external forcing. Enhanced changes in the subtropical southern IO arise from positive air–sea feedback among sea surface temperature, winds, turbulent heat flux, cloud cover, and shortwave radiation. Regarding dipole-type variability, the basinwide surface warming is induced by surface heat flux forcing, and the subsurface cooling occurs only in the eastern IO. The cooling in the southeast IO is generated by the weakened ITF, whereas that in the northeast IO is caused by equatorial easterly winds through upwelling oceanic waves. Both El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and IO dipole (IOD) events are favorable for the generation of such vertical dipole anomalies.

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Yuanlong Li, Weiqing Han, Wanqiu Wang, Lei Zhang, and M. Ravichandran

Abstract

Northward-propagating Indian summer monsoon intraseasonal oscillations (MISOs) are a major origin of the active–break spells of the monsoon rainfall. Forecast results for 28 active and 27 break spells from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Climate Forecast System, version 2 (CFSv2), during 1999–2010 are analyzed. CFSv2 forecasts are able to represent the propagation of MISOs from the equator to central India, showing improvements in many aspects compared to its previous version. Systematic biases for MISOs, however, still exist, exhibiting apparently weaker amplitude and slower northward propagation compared to observations. The eastern Arabian Sea (EAS)–western Bay of Bengal (WBB) region (EAS–WBB region; 12°–20°N, 65°–85°E) is found to be critical for the MISO prediction. In that region, the forecast and observed MISO trajectories begin to bifurcate from each other, and forecast errors grow rapidly. Further diagnosis reveals that local air–sea interaction in that region is severely underrepresented in CFSv2. Sea surface temperature (SST) response to surface heat flux forcing and convection response to SST forcing are both too weak, leading to the underestimated MISO amplitude. The relationship between precipitation and SST in CFSv2 is much more chaotic than in observation. The misrepresentation of air–sea coupling results in longer MISO periods in the EAS–WBB region, manifesting as slower propagation and delayed arrival of MISOs in central India. Refining the air–sea coupling processes is crucial for improving the CFSv2 forecast. This includes taking into account the ocean skin layer, better resolving the diurnal cycle, and improving the ocean model physics.

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Tianjiao Ma, Wen Chen, Hans-F. Graf, Shuoyi Ding, Peiqiang Xu, Lei Song, and Xiaoqing Lan

Abstract

The present study investigates different impacts of the East Asian winter monsoon (EAWM) on surface air temperature (Ts) in North America (NA) during ENSO and neutral ENSO episodes. In neutral ENSO years, the EAWM shows a direct impact on the Ts anomalies in NA on an interannual time scale. Two Rossby wave packets appear over the Eurasian–western Pacific (upstream) and North Pacific–NA (downstream) regions associated with a strong EAWM. Further analysis suggests that the downstream wave packet is caused by reflection of the upstream wave packet over the subtropical western Pacific and amplified over the North Pacific. Also, the East Asian subtropical westerly jet stream (EAJS) is intensified in the central and downstream region over the central North Pacific. Hence, increased barotropic kinetic energy conversion and the interaction between transient eddies and the EAJS tend to maintain the circulation anomaly over the North Pacific. Therefore, a strong EAWM tends to result in warm Ts anomalies in northwestern NA via the downstream wave packet emanating from the central North Pacific toward NA. A weak EAWM tends to induce cold Ts anomalies in western-central NA with a smaller magnitude. However, in ENSO years, an anomalous EAJS is mainly confined over East Asia and does not extend into the central North Pacific. The results confirm that the EAWM has an indirect impact on the Ts anomalies in NA via a modulation of the tropical convection anomalies associated with ENSO. Our results indicate that, for seasonal prediction of Ts anomalies in NA, the influence of the EAWM should be taken into account. It produces different responses in neutral ENSO and in ENSO years.

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