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D. E. Harrison

Abstract

Using a version of the global surface marine observation historical data set, a new 1° spatial resolution global ocean surface wind stress climatology has been evaluated using the Large and Pond surface drag coefficient formulation. These new results are compared, after spatial smoothing, with those of Hellerman and Rosenstein, who used a different drag coefficient form. It is found that the new stresses are almost everywhere smaller than those of Hellerman and Rosenstein, often by 20%–30%, which is greater than the formal error estimates from their calculations. The stress differences show large-scale spatial structure, as would he expected given the spatial variation of the surface stability parameter and the known different wind variability regions. Basin zonally averaged Ekman transports are computed to provide perspective on the significance of the stress differences; annual mean differences can exceed 10 Sv (Sv = 106 m3 s−1) equatorward of 20° lat, but are smaller poleward. Wind stress curl and Sverdrup transport calculations provide a different perspective on the differences; particularly noticeable differences are found in the regions of the Gulf Stream and Kuroshio separation. Large annual variations in midlatitude wind stress curl suggest that study of the forced response at annual periods should be of interest.

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D. E. Harrison

Abstract

Multidecadel time series of surface winds from central tropical Pacific islands are used to compute trends in the trade winds between the end of WWII and 1985. Over this period, averaged over the whole region, there is no statistically significant trend in speed or zonal or meridional wind (or pseudostress). However, there is some tendency, within a few degrees of the equator, toward weakening of the easterlies and increased meridional flow toward the equator. Anomalous conditions subsequent to the 1972–73 ENSO event make a considerable contribution to the long-term trends. The period 1974–80 has been noted previously to have been anomalous, and trends over that period are sharply greater than those over the longer records.

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D. E. Harrison

Abstract

Several primitive-equation ocean general circulation model experiments have been carried out in order to explore the sensitivity of equatorial sea surface temperature (SST) results to uncertainty in the net surface heal flux (Q) imposed at the surface. Both climatological seasonal cycle experiments and hindcasts of the 1982/33 ENSO event are considered. It is found that regions of light winds, which typically reach values of SST in excess of 31°C using this ocean model and past Q parameterizations, attain more realistic SST values of 29°–30°C when Q is reduced by as little as 10 W m−2. Sensitivity in this regime is about 0.1–0.2°C (W m−2)−1 for low-frequency SST changes. In regions of easterly winds with their associated upwelling, horizontal advection, and stronger mixing, changes of Q in excess of 50 W m−2 produce SST changes typically of 0.7°C, for a sensitivity of about 0.02°C (W m−2)−1. These results apply equally well to the ENSO hindcasts and the seasonal cycle studies. The reasons for the large variation in sensitivity and the very large sensitivity under light winds are described. To the extent that these results are representative of oceanic conditions, very accurate Q information will be required for studies of the low-frequency variability of SST in light wind regions like the western Pacific; much less accurate fluxes appear needed for studies of comparable variability in upwelling regions.

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Mark Carson and D. E. Harrison

Abstract

There is great interest in World Ocean temperature trends, yet the historical global ocean database has very uneven coverage in space and time. Previous work on 50-yr upper ocean temperature trends from the NOAA ocean data archive is extended here. Trends at depths from 50 to 1000 m are examined, based on observations gridded over larger regions than in the earlier study. Despite the use of larger grid boxes, most of the ocean does not have significant 50-yr trends at the 90% confidence level (CL). In fact only 30% of the ocean at 50 m has 90% CL trends, and the percentage decreases significantly with increasing depth. As noted in the previous study, there is much spatial structure in 50-yr trends, with areas of strong warming and strong cooling. These trend results are compared with trends calculated from data interpolated to standard levels and from a highly horizontally interpolated version of the dataset that has been used in previous heat content trend studies. The regional trend results can differ substantially, even in the areas with statistically significant trends. Trends based on the more interpolated analyses show more warming. Together with major temporal and spatial sampling limitations, the previously described strong interdecadal and spatial variability of trends makes it very difficult to formally estimate uncertainty in World Ocean averages, but these results suggest that upper ocean heat content integrals and integral trends may be substantially more uncertain than has yet been acknowledged. Further exploration of uncertainties is needed.

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Mark Carson and D. E. Harrison

Abstract

Regional interdecadal variability, on subbasin to basin scales, is shown to be a robust feature of the post–World War II (WWII) historical temperature record, even after a recently proposed bias correction to XBT fall rates is applied. This study shows that the previously reported strong regional variability is generally unaffected by this correction, even though the interdecadal variability in the most recently published estimates of global ocean heat content is much reduced after a correction is applied. Following methods used in previous trend analysis work, estimates of interdecadal trends are calculated for individual regions of the global ocean where there are sufficient data. Spatial maps of temperature trends for the surface and three subsurface depths (50, 100, and 300 m) are presented, with both bias-corrected and uncorrected data trends at 100 and 300 m shown for comparison. In the upper two depths and at the surface, interdecadal variability is shown to be present and strong in most of the analysis regions. At 100 m, the differences between trends based on bias-corrected versus uncorrected data are small, and barely distinguishable for much of the ocean analyzed. There are more differences at 300 m between the two data treatments, but large-scale patterns are still present in the bias-corrected trends, especially where the trends are stronger.

Given the sampling issues discussed in previous works, the presence of strong interdecadal variability on smaller scales raises concerns that global interdecadal variability in the historical record still may not be properly resolved.

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D. E. Harrison and D. S. Luther

Abstract

Multidecadal time series of surface wind observations from tropical Pacific islands have been examined in order to investigate the space and time scales of variability. Climatological monthly means and variances are compared with comparable means and variances derived from ship observations; usually the means agree to within ∼1 m s−1 in speed and ∼10 degrees in direction. Annual and semiannual cycles differ in detail. Island zonal wind variances are often significantly larger, by up to 10 m2 s−2 near the equator between September and December; because of the spatial coherence of the island results, these discrepancies are believed to result from the poor high-frequency sampling typical of ship data. A substantial near-equatorial zonal wind variance maximum is shown to be related to ENSO period variability; excluding ENSO time periods leaves a relatively spatially uniform variance of ∼5 m2 s−2 over a broad region.

The frequency distribution of variance, derived from daily-averaged data, exhibits considerable geographical variation. Within a few degrees of the equator the most energetic zonal wind variability is found in a broad band extending from about 3- to 60-day periods, with maximum at about 10 days; there is also significant interannual power in records located west of 170°W. There is occasionally a local variance maximum in the range of 30- to 60-day periods. Within this near-equatorial region, the meridional wind variance is roughly half the zonal wind variance and is found primarily between about 3-day and 6-day periods and at the annual period. Poleward of about 5 degrees of latitude, the interannual variability in zonal wind diminishes sharply, and the zonal and meridional wind variances become increasingly comparable. The zonal wind energy level in the 3- to 60-day band decreases as one moves farther from the equator, until the more energetic winds typical of subtropical latitudes arise. Coherence calculations typically show zonal wind coherence significant at the 95% level at all energetic periods when islands axe within 200–300 km of each other meridionally, and within 1000–1500 km zonally. The meridional wind tends to be less coherent. A minimal sampling array for tropical surface wind variability in this region should have meridional sampling about every 2° and zonal sampling about every 15° for the zonal wind, and perhaps half these distances for the meridional wind.

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A. M. Chiodi and D. E. Harrison

Abstract

Globally, the seasonal cycle is the largest single component of observed sea surface temperature (SST) variability, yet it is still not fully understood. Herein, the degree to which the structure of the seasonal cycle of Southern Hemisphere SST can be explained by the present understanding of surface fluxes and upper-ocean physics is examined. It has long been known that the annual range of Southern Hemisphere SST is largest in the midlatitudes, despite the fact that the annual range of net surface heat flux peaks well poleward of the SST peak. The reasons for this discrepancy (“falloff of the annual range of SST”) are determined here through analysis of net surface heat flux estimates, observed SST, and mixed layer depth data, and results from experiments using two different one-dimensional ocean models. Results show that (i) the classical explanations for the structure of the annual range of SST in the Southern Hemisphere are incomplete, (ii) current estimates of surface heat flux and mixed layer depth can be used to accurately reproduce the observed annual range of SST, and (iii) the prognostic mixed layer models used here often fail to adequately reproduce the seasonal cycle at higher latitudes, despite performing remarkably well in other regions. This suggests that more work is necessary to understand the changes of upper-ocean dynamics that occur with latitude.

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Gabriel A. Vecchi and D. E. Harrison

Abstract

The Indian southwest monsoon directly affects the lives of over one billion people, providing almost 90% of the annual precipitation to the Indian subcontinent. An important characteristic of the southwest monsoon is variability on subseasonal timescales, with “active” periods of heavy rain interrupted by drier “break” periods. Both the number of monsoon breaks in a season and the timing of these breaks profoundly impact agricultural output from the Indian subcontinent. Most research on monsoon breaks has emphasized possible atmospheric mechanisms. However, new satellite data reveal large-amplitude basin-scale subseasonal sea surface temperature (SST) variability in the Bay of Bengal (BoB), in which northern BoB cooling precedes monsoon breaks by about 1 week. The relationship is statistically significant at the 95% level over the 3 yr examined, and so offers a potential statistical predictor for short-term monsoon variability. The basinwide averaged amplitude of SST changes is 1°–2°C and local changes can exceed 3°C over 2 weeks; these changes are as large as those seen in the local climatological seasonal cycle. This raises the possibility that air–sea interaction may be a significant factor in monsoon variability; the SST variability is coherent with monsoon variability with a phase relationship consistent with a coupled oscillation. A schematic coupled air–sea oscillator mechanism is offered for further study, in which oceanic changes play a dynamical role in monsoon variability.

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Andrew M. Chiodi and D. E. Harrison

Abstract

The tropical Pacific moored-buoy array spacing was based on wind coherence scales observed from low-lying islands in the western-central tropical Pacific. Since the array was deployed across the full basin in the mid-1990s, winds from the array have proven critical to accurately monitoring for decadal-scale changes in tropical Pacific winds and identifying spurious trends in wind analysis products used to monitor for long-term change. The array observations have also greatly advanced our ability to diagnostically model (hindcast) and thereby better understand the observed development of central Pacific sea surface temperature anomaly development associated with El Niño and La Niña events, although the eastern equatorial Pacific is not yet accurately hindcast. The original array-design assumptions that the statistics calculated from the western-central Pacific island records are representative of open-ocean conditions and other regions of the tropical Pacific have not been thoroughly reexamined. We revisit these assumptions using the basinwide wind observations provided by the array and find that key wind statistics change across the tropical Pacific basin in ways that could not be determined from the original island wind study. The island results provided a best-case answer for mooring zonal spacing with minimally redundant coherence between adjacent buoys. Buoy-observed meridional coherence scales are longer than determined from the islands. Enhanced zonal sampling east of 140°W and west of 180° is needed to obtain minimal redundancy (optimal spacing). Reduced meridional sampling could still yield minimal redundancy for wind and wind stress fields over the ocean waveguide.

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