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Jie Feng and Tao Lian

Abstract

This study evaluates the relationship between the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) and the occurrence of equatorial Pacific westerly wind bursts (WWBs). During the convective MJO phase, anomalous surface westerlies prevail in and west of the convective MJO center, providing favorable conditions for WWBs. Compared with the probability of WWBs expected under a null hypothesis that WWBs occur randomly, the convective MJO phase almost doubles the probability of a WWB occurring. Nevertheless, only 34.46% of WWBs co-occur with the convective MJO, which is much less than that reported in previous studies. We show that when the MJO and WWBs are defined using the same field with overlapping frequencies, the percentage of WWBs co-occurring with the convective MJO shows a significant increase. However, the higher percentage is simply caused by the fact that the strong WWBs during a convective MJO are more likely to be identified than those during the suppressed and neutral MJO phases. A total of 45.80% of WWBs are found to occur in the full MJO phase (both the convective and suppressed MJO phases), which is slightly higher than that expected based on randomness. Although the full MJO has statistically significant impact on the likelihood of WWBs, the influence from the full MJO on the tropical Pacific sea surface temperature anomaly is much weaker as compared to that from the WWBs. The relationships between the MJO and WWBs simulated in CMIP5 models are also assessed, and the percentage of WWBs that co-occur with the MJO simulated in models is in general less than that in observations.

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Tao Lian and Dake Chen

Abstract

As an effective eigen method for phenomenon identification and space reduction, empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis is widely used in climate research. However, because of its orthorgonality constraint, EOF analysis has a tendency to produce unphysical modes. Previous studies have shown that the drawbacks of EOF analysis could be partly alleviated by rotated EOF (REOF) analysis, but such studies are always based on specific cases. This paper provides a thorough statistical evaluation of REOF analysis by comparing its ability with that of EOF analysis in reproducing a large number of randomly selected stationary modes of variability. The synthetic experiments indicate that REOF analysis is overwhelmingly a better choice in terms of accuracy and effectiveness, especially for picking up localized patterns. When applied to the tropical Pacific sea surface temperature variability, REOF and EOF analyses show obvious discrepancies, with the former making much better physical sense. This challenges the validity of the so-called sea surface temperature cooling mode and the spatial structure of “El Niño Modoki,” both of which are recently identified by EOF analysis. At any rate, one has to be cautious when claiming new discoveries of climate modes based on EOF analysis alone.

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Jie Feng, Tao Lian, Jun Ying, Junde Li, and Gen Li

Abstract

Whether the state-of-the-art CMIP5 models have different El Niño types and how the degree of modeled El Niño diversity would be impacted by the future global warming are still heavily debated. In this study, cluster analysis is used to investigate El Niño diversity in 30 CMIP5 models. As the method does not rely on any prior knowledge of the patterns of El Niño seen in observations, it provides a practical way to identify the degree of El Niño diversity in models. Under the historical scenario, most models show a poor degree of El Niño diversity in their own model world, primarily due to the lopsided numbers of events belonging to the two modeled El Niño types and the weak compactness of events in each cluster. Four models are found showing significant El Niño diversity, yet none of them captures the longitudinal distributions of the warming centers of the two El Niño types seen in the observations. Heat budget analysis of the sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly suggests that the degree of modeled El Niño diversity is highly related to the climatological zonal SST gradient over the western-central equatorial Pacific in models. As the gradient is weakened in most models under the future high-emission scenario, the degree of modeled El Niño diversity is further reduced in the future. The results indicate that a better simulation of the SST gradient over the western-central equatorial Pacific might allow a more reliable simulation/projection of El Niño diversity in most CMIP5 models.

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Jun Ying, Ping Huang, Tao Lian, and Dake Chen

Abstract

This study investigates the mechanism of the large intermodel uncertainty in the change of ENSO’s amplitude under global warming based on 31 CMIP5 models. We find that the uncertainty in ENSO’s amplitude is significantly correlated to that of the change in the response of atmospheric circulation to SST anomalies (SSTAs) in the eastern equatorial Pacific Niño-3 region. This effect of the atmospheric response to SSTAs mainly influences the uncertainty in ENSO’s amplitude during El Niño (EN) phases, but not during La Niña (LN) phases, showing pronounced nonlinearity. The effect of the relative SST warming and the present-day response of atmospheric circulation to SSTAs are the two major contributors to the intermodel spread of the change in the atmospheric response to SSTAs, of which the latter is more important. On the one hand, models with a stronger (weaker) mean-state SST warming in the eastern equatorial Pacific, relative to the tropical-mean warming, favor a larger (smaller) increase in the change in the response of atmospheric circulation to SSTAs in the eastern equatorial Pacific during EN. On the other hand, models with a weaker (stronger) present-day response of atmospheric circulation to SSTAs during EN tend to exhibit a larger (smaller) increase in the change under global warming. The result implies that an improved simulation of the present-day response of atmospheric circulation to SSTAs could be effective in lowering the uncertainty in ENSO’s amplitude change under global warming.

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Jiepeng Chen, Jin-Yi Yu, Xin Wang, and Tao Lian

ABSTRACT

Previous studies linked the increase of the middle and low reaches of the Yangtze River (MLRYR) rainfall to tropical Indian Ocean warming during extreme El Niños’ (e.g., 1982/83 and 1997/98 extreme El Niños) decaying summer. This study finds the linkage to be different for the recent 2015/16 extreme El Niño’s decaying summer, during which the above-normal rainfalls over MLRYR and northern China are respectively linked to southeastern Indian Ocean warming and western tropical Indian Ocean cooling in sea surface temperatures (SSTs). The southeastern Indian Ocean warming helps to maintain the El Niño–induced anomalous lower-level anticyclone over the western North Pacific Ocean and southern China, which enhances moisture transport to increase rainfall over MLRYR. The western tropical Indian Ocean cooling first enhances the rainfall over central-northern India through a regional atmospheric circulation, the latent heating of which further excites a midlatitude Asian teleconnection pattern (part of circumglobal teleconnection) that results in an above-normal rainfall over northern China. The western tropical Indian Ocean cooling during the 2015/16 extreme El Niño is contributed by the increased upward latent heat flux anomalies associated with enhanced surface wind speeds, opposite to the earlier two extreme El Niños.

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Xiaohui Liu, Dong-Ping Wang, Jilan Su, Dake Chen, Tao Lian, Changming Dong, and Tongya Liu

Abstract

The circulation of the Kuroshio northeast of Taiwan is characterized by a large anticyclonic loop of surface intrusion and strong upwelling at the shelfbreak. To study the mechanisms of Kuroshio intrusions, the vorticity balance is examined using a high-resolution nested numerical model. In the 2D depth-averaged vorticity equation, the advection of geostrophic potential vorticity (APV) term and the joint effect of baroclinicity and relief (JEBAR) term are dominant. On the other hand, in the 2D depth-integrated vorticity equation, the main balance is between nonlinear advection and bottom pressure torque. It is shown that JEBAR and APV tend to compensate, and their difference is comparable to bottom pressure torque. Perhaps most significantly, a general framework is provided for examination of vorticity balance over steep slopes through a full 3D depth-dependent vorticity equation. The 3D analysis reveals a well-defined bottom boundary layer over the shelfbreak, about 40 m deep and capped by the vertical velocity maximum. In the upper frictionless layer from the surface to about 100 m, the primary balance is between nonlinear advection and horizontal divergence. In the lower frictional layer, viscous stress is balanced by nonlinear advection and horizontal divergence. The bottom pressure torque, which corresponds to the depth-integrated viscous effect, is a proxy for viscous stress divergence at the bottom. The importance of nonlinear advection is further demonstrated in a sensitivity experiment by removing advective terms from momentum equations. Without nonlinear advection, the bottom pressure torque becomes trivial, the boundary layer vanishes, and the on-shelf intrusion is considerably weakened.

Open access
Tao Lian, Jun Ying, Hong-Li Ren, Chan Zhang, Ting Liu, and Xiao-Xiao Tan

Abstract

Numerous studies have investigated the role of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in modulating the activity of tropical cyclones (TCs) in the western Pacific on interannual time scales, but the effects of TCs on ENSO are less discussed. Some studies have found that TCs sharply increase surface westerly anomalies over the equatorial western–central Pacific and maintain them there for a few days. Given the strong influence of equatorial surface westerly wind bursts on ENSO, as confirmed by much recent literature, the effects of TCs on ENSO may be much greater than previously expected. Using recently released observations and reanalysis datasets, it is found that the majority of near-equatorial TCs (simply TCs hereafter) are associated with strong westerly anomalies at the equator, and the number and longitude of TCs are significantly correlated with ENSO strength. When TC-related wind stresses are added into an intermediate coupled model, the simulated ENSO becomes more irregular, and both ENSO magnitude and skewness approach those of observations, as compared with simulations without TCs. Adding TCs into the model system does not break the linkage between the heat content anomaly and subsequent ENSO event in the model, which manifest the classic recharge–discharge ENSO dynamics. However, the influence of TCs on ENSO is so strong that ENSO magnitude and sometimes its final state—that is, either El Niño or La Niña—largely depend on the number and timing of TCs during the event year. Our findings suggest that TCs play a prominent role in ENSO dynamics, and their effects must be considered in ENSO forecast models.

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Jun Ying, Tao Lian, Ping Huang, Gang Huang, Dake Chen, and Shangfeng Chen

Abstract

The surface heat flux anomalies during El Niño events have always been treated as an atmospheric response to sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs). However, whether they play roles in the formation of SSTAs remain unclear. In this study, we find that the surface net heat flux anomalies in different El Niño types have different effects on the development of the spatial pattern of SSTAs. By applying the fuzzy clustering method, El Niño events during 1982–2018 are classified into two types: extreme (moderate) El Niños with strong (moderate) positive SSTAs, with the largest SSTAs in the eastern (central) equatorial Pacific. The surface net heat flux anomalies in extreme El Niños generally display a “larger warming gets more damping” zonal paradigm, and essentially do not impact the formation of the spatial pattern of SSTAs. Those in moderate El Niños, however, can impact the formation of the spatial pattern of SSTA, by producing more damping effects in the eastern than in the central equatorial Pacific, thus favoring the largest SSTAs being confined to the central equatorial Pacific. The more damping effects of net heat flux anomalies in the eastern equatorial Pacific in moderate El Niños are contributed by the surface latent heat flux anomalies, which are mainly regulated by the negative relative humidity–SST feedback and the positive wind–evaporation–SST feedback. Therefore, we highlightthat these two atmospheric adjustments should be considered during the development of moderate El Niños in order to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the formation of El Niño diversity.

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Zhenzhong Zeng, Shilong Piao, Laurent Z. X. Li, Tao Wang, Philippe Ciais, Xu Lian, Yuting Yang, Jiafu Mao, Xiaoying Shi, and Ranga B. Myneni

Abstract

Leaf area index (LAI) is increasing throughout the globe, implying Earth greening. Global modeling studies support this contention, yet satellite observations and model simulations have never been directly compared. Here, for the first time, a coupled land–climate model was used to quantify the potential impact of the satellite-observed Earth greening over the past 30 years on the terrestrial water cycle. The global LAI enhancement of 8% between the early 1980s and the early 2010s is modeled to have caused increases of 12.0 ± 2.4 mm yr−1 in evapotranspiration and 12.1 ± 2.7 mm yr−1 in precipitation—about 55% ± 25% and 28% ± 6% of the observed increases in land evapotranspiration and precipitation, respectively. In wet regions, the greening did not significantly decrease runoff and soil moisture because it intensified moisture recycling through a coincident increase of evapotranspiration and precipitation. But in dry regions, including the Sahel, west Asia, northern India, the western United States, and the Mediterranean coast, the greening was modeled to significantly decrease soil moisture through its coupling with the atmospheric water cycle. This modeled soil moisture response, however, might have biases resulting from the precipitation biases in the model. For example, the model dry bias might have underestimated the soil moisture response in the observed dry area (e.g., the Sahel and northern India) given that the modeled soil moisture is near the wilting point. Thus, an accurate representation of precipitation and its feedbacks in Earth system models is essential for simulations and predictions of how soil moisture responds to LAI changes, and therefore how the terrestrial water cycle responds to climate change.

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