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Martin Visbeck

Abstract

Atmospheric pressure observations from the Southern Hemisphere are used to estimate monthly and annually averaged indexes of the southern annular mode (SAM) back to 1884. This analysis groups all relevant observations in the following four regions: one for Antarctica and three in the subtropical zone. Continuous surface pressure observations are available at a number of locations in the subtropical regions since the end of the nineteenth century. However, year-round observations in the subpolar region near the Antarctic continent began only during the 1940–60 period. The shorter Antarctic records seriously compromise the length of a traditionally estimated SAM index. To improve the situation “proxy” estimates of Antarctic sea level pressure anomalies are provided based on the concept of atmospheric mass conservation poleward of 20°S. This allows deriving a longer SAM index back to 1884. Several aspects of the new record, its statistical properties, seasonal trends, and the regional pressure anomaly correlations, are presented.

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Martin Visbeck and Alex Hall
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Alex Hall and Martin Visbeck

Abstract

Zonally symmetric fluctuations of the midlatitude westerly winds characterize the primary mode of atmospheric variability in the Southern Hemisphere during all seasons. This is true not only in observations but also in an unforced 15 000-yr integration of a coarse-resolution (R15) coupled ocean–atmosphere model. Here it is documented how this mode of atmospheric variability, known as the Southern Annular Mode (SAM), generates ocean circulation and sea ice variations in the model integration on interannual to centennial timescales that are tightly in phase with the SAM. The positive phase of the SAM is associated with an intensification of the surface westerlies over the circumpolar ocean (around 60°S), and a weakening of the surface westerlies farther north. This induces Ekman drift to the north at all longitudes of the circumpolar ocean, and Ekman drift to the south at around 30°S. Through mass continuity, the Ekman drift generates anomalous upwelling along the margins of the Antarctic continent, and downwelling around 45°S. The anomalous flow diverging from the Antarctic continent also increases the vertical tilt of the isopycnals in the Southern Ocean, so that a more intense circumpolar current is also closely associated with positive SAM. In addition, the anomalous divergent flow advects sea ice farther north, resulting in an increase in sea ice coverage. Finally, positive SAM drives increases in poleward heat transport at about 30°S, while decreases occur in the circumpolar region. Ocean and sea ice anomalies of the opposite sign occur when the SAM is negative. The ocean and sea ice fluctuations associated with the SAM constitute a significant fraction of simulated ocean variability poleward of 30°S year-round. The robustness of the mechanisms relating the SAM to oceanic variability suggests that the SAM is likely an important source of large-scale variability in the real Southern Hemisphere ocean.

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Ralph F. Keeling and Martin Visbeck

Abstract

The suggestion is advanced that the remarkably low static stability of Antarctic surface waters may arise from a feedback loop involving global deep-water temperatures. If deep-water temperatures are too warm, this promotes Antarctic convection, thereby strengthening the inflow of Antarctic Bottom Water into the ocean interior and cooling the deep ocean. If deep waters are too cold, this promotes Antarctic stratification allowing the deep ocean to warm because of the input of North Atlantic Deep Water. A steady-state deep-water temperature is achieved such that the Antarctic surface can barely undergo convection. A two-box model is used to illustrate this feedback loop in its simplest expression and to develop basic concepts, such as the bounds on the operation of this loop. The model illustrates the possible dominating influence of Antarctic upwelling rate and Antarctic freshwater balance on global deep-water temperatures.

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Arnold L. Gordon, Martin Visbeck, and Josefino C. Comiso

Abstract

Shortly after the advent of the first imaging passive microwave sensor on board a research satellite an anomalous climate feature was observed within the Weddell Sea. During the years 1974–1976, a 250 × 103 km2 area within the seasonal sea ice cover was virtually free of winter sea ice. This feature, the Weddell Polynya, was created as sea ice formation was inhibited by ocean convection that injected relatively warm deep water into the surface layer. Though smaller, less persistent polynyas associated with topographically induced upwelling at Maud Rise frequently form in the area, there has not been a reoccurrence of the Weddell Polynya since 1976. Archived observations of the surface layer salinity within the Weddell gyre suggest that the Weddell Polynya may have been induced by a prolonged period of negative Southern Annular Mode (SAM). During negative SAM the Weddell Sea experiences colder and drier atmospheric conditions, making for a saltier surface layer with reduced pycnocline stability. This condition enables Maud Rise upwelling to trigger sustained deep-reaching convection associated with the polynya. Since the late 1970s SAM has been close to neutral or in a positive state, resulting in warmer, wetter conditions over the Weddell Sea, forestalling repeat of the Weddell Polynya. A contributing factor to the Weddell Polynya initiation may have been a La Niña condition, which is associated with increased winter sea ice formation in the polynya area. If the surface layer is made sufficiently salty due to a prolonged negative SAM period, perhaps aided by La Niña, then Maud Rise upwelling meets with positive feedback, triggering convection, and a winter persistent Weddell Polynya.

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Julie M. Jones, Ryan L. Fogt, Martin Widmann, Gareth J. Marshall, Phil D. Jones, and Martin Visbeck

Abstract

Seasonal reconstructions of the Southern Hemisphere annular mode (SAM) index are derived to extend the record before the reanalysis period, using station sea level pressure (SLP) data as predictors. Two reconstructions using different predictands are obtained: one [Jones and Widmann (JW)] based on the first principal component (PC) of extratropical SLP and the other (Fogt) on the index of Marshall. A regional-based SAM index (Visbeck) is also considered.

These predictands agree well post-1979; correlations decline in all seasons except austral summer for the full series starting in 1958. Predictand agreement is strongest in spring and summer; hence agreement between the reconstructions is highest in these seasons. The less zonally symmetric SAM structure in winter and spring influences the strength of the SAM signal over land areas, hence the number of stations included in the reconstructions. Reconstructions from 1865 were, therefore, derived in summer and autumn and from 1905 in winter and spring.

This paper examines the skill of each reconstruction by comparison with observations and reanalysis data. Some of the individual peaks in the reconstructions, such as the most recent in austral summer, represent a full hemispheric SAM pattern, while others are caused by regional SLP anomalies over the locations of the predictors. The JW and Fogt reconstructions are of similar quality in summer and autumn, while in winter and spring the Marshall index is better reconstructed by Fogt than the PC index is by JW. In spring and autumn the SAM shows considerable variability prior to recent decades.

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Richard Seager, Yochanan Kushnir, Martin Visbeck, Naomi Naik, Jennifer Miller, Gerd Krahmann, and Heidi Cullen

Abstract

Numerical experiments are performed to examine the causes of variability of Atlantic Ocean SST during the period covered by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP–NCAR) reanalysis (1958–98). Three ocean models are used. Two are mixed layer models: one with a 75-m-deep mixed layer and the other with a variable depth mixed layer. For both mixed layer models the ocean heat transports are assumed to remain at their diagnosed climatological values. The third model is a full dynamical ocean general circulation model (GCM). All models are coupled to a model of the subcloud atmospheric mixed layer (AML). The AML model computes the air temperature and humidity by balancing surface fluxes, radiative cooling, entrainment at cloud base, advection and eddy heat, and moisture transports. The models are forced with NCEP–NCAR monthly mean winds from 1958 to 1998.

The ocean mixed layer models adequately reproduce the dominant pattern of Atlantic Ocean climate variability in both its spatial pattern and time dependence. This pattern is the familiar tripole of alternating zonal bands of SST anomalies stretching between the subpolar gyre and the subtropics. This SST pattern goes along with a wind pattern that corresponds to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Analysis of the results reveals that changes in wind speed create the subtropical SST anomalies while at higher latitudes changes in advection of temperature and humidity and changes in atmospheric eddy fluxes are important.

An observational analysis of the boundary layer energy balance is also performed. Anomalous atmospheric eddy heat fluxes are very closely tied to the SST anomalies. Anomalous horizontal eddy fluxes damp the SST anomalies while anomalous vertical eddy fluxes tend to cool the entire midlatitude North Atlantic during the NAO’s high-index phase with the maximum cooling exactly where the SST gradient is strengthened the most.

The SSTs simulated by the ocean mixed layer model are compared with those simulated by the dynamic ocean GCM. In the far North Atlantic Ocean anomalous ocean heat transports are equally important as surface fluxes in generating SST anomalies and they act constructively. The anomalous heat transports are associated with anomalous Ekman drifts and are consequently in phase with the changing surface fluxes. Elsewhere changes in surface fluxes dominate over changes in ocean heat transport. These results suggest that almost all of the variability of the North Atlantic SST in the last four decades can be explained as a response to changes in surface fluxes caused by changes in the atmospheric circulation. Changes in the mean atmospheric circulation force the SST while atmospheric eddy fluxes dampen the SST. Both the interannual variability and the longer timescale changes can be explained in this way. While the authors were unable to find evidence for changes in ocean heat transport systematically leading or lagging development of SST anomalies, this leaves open the problem of explaining the causes of the low-frequency variability. Possible causes are discussed with reference to the modeling results.

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