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Robert Hallberg
and
Anand Gnanadesikan

Abstract

The Modeling Eddies in the Southern Ocean (MESO) project uses numerical sensitivity studies to examine the role played by Southern Ocean winds and eddies in determining the density structure of the global ocean and the magnitude and structure of the global overturning circulation. A hemispheric isopycnal-coordinate ocean model (which avoids numerical diapycnal diffusion) with realistic geometry is run with idealized forcing at a range of resolutions from coarse (2°) to eddy-permitting (1/6°). A comparison of coarse resolutions with fine resolutions indicates that explicit eddies affect both the structure of the overturning and the response of the overturning to wind stress changes. While the presence of resolved eddies does not greatly affect the prevailing qualitative picture of the ocean circulation, it alters the overturning cells involving the Southern Ocean transformation of dense deep waters and light waters of subtropical origin into intermediate waters. With resolved eddies, the surface-to-intermediate water cell extends farther southward by hundreds of kilometers and the deep-to-intermediate cell draws on comparatively lighter deep waters. The overturning response to changes in the winds is also sensitive to the presence of eddies. In noneddying simulations, changing the Ekman transport produces comparable changes in the overturning, much of it involving transformation of deep waters and resembling the mean circulation. In the eddy-permitting simulations, a significant fraction of the Ekman transport changes are compensated by eddy-induced transport drawing from lighter waters than does the mean overturning. This significant difference calls into question the ability of coarse-resolution ocean models to accurately capture the impact of changes in the Southern Ocean on the global ocean circulation.

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Robert Hallberg
and
Anand Gnanadesikan

Abstract

The meridional Ekman transport in a zonally reentrant channel may be balanced by diabatic circulations, standing eddies associated with topography, or by Lagrangian mean eddy mass fluxes. A simple model is used to explore the interaction between these mechanisms. A key assumption of this study is that diabatic forcing in the poleward edge of the channel acts to create lighter fluid, as is the case with net freshwater fluxes into the Southern Ocean. For weak wind forcing or strong diabatic constraint, a simple scaling argument accurately predicts the level of baroclinic shear. However, given our understanding of the relative magnitudes of Ekman flux and deep upwelling, this is not the appropriate parameter range for the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. With stronger wind stresses, eddies are prominent, with baroclinic instability initially developing in the vicinity of large topography. Arguments have been advanced by a number of authors that baroclinic instability should limit the velocity shear, leading to a stiff upper limit on the transport of the current. However, in the simulations presented here baroclinic instability is largely confined to the region of topographic highs, and the approach to a current that is independent of the wind stress occurs gradually. Several recent parameterizations of transient eddy fluxes do not reproduce key features of the observed behavior.

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Ronald C. Pacanowski
and
Anand Gnanadesikan

Abstract

Ocean simulations are in part determined by topographic waves with speeds and spatial scales dependent on bottom slope. By their very nature, discrete z-level ocean models have problems accurately representing bottom topography when slopes are less than the grid cell aspect ratio Δzx. In such regions, the dispersion relation for topographic waves is inaccurate. However, bottom topography can be accurately represented in discrete z-level models by allowing bottom-most grid cells to be partially filled with land. Consequently, gently sloping bottom topography is resolved on the scale of horizontal grid resolution and the dispersion relation for topographic waves is accurately approximated. In contrast to the standard approach using full cells, partial cells imply that all grid points within a vertical level are not necessarily at the same depth and problems arise with pressure gradient errors and the spurious diapycnal diffusion. However, both problems have been effectively dealt with. Differences in flow fields between simulations with full cells and partial cells can be significant, and simulations with partial cells are more robust than with full cells. Partial cells provide a superior representation of topographic waves when compared to the standard method employing full cells.

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Anand Gnanadesikan
and
Whit G. Anderson

Abstract

Ocean water clarity affects the distribution of shortwave heating in the water column. In a one-dimensional time-mean sense, increased clarity would be expected to cool the surface and heat subsurface depths as shortwave radiation penetrates deeper into the water column. However, wind-driven upwelling, boundary currents, and the seasonal cycle of mixing can bring water heated at depth back to the surface. This warms the equator and cools the subtropics throughout the year while reducing the amplitude of the seasonal cycle of temperature in polar regions. This paper examines how these changes propagate through the climate system in a coupled model with an isopycnal ocean component focusing on the different impacts associated with removing shading from different regions. Increasing shortwave penetration along the equator causes warming to the south of the equator. Increasing it in the relatively clear gyres off the equator causes the Hadley cells to strengthen and the subtropical gyres to shift equatorward. Increasing shortwave penetration in the less clear regions overlying the oxygen minimum zones causes the cold tongue to warm and the Walker circulation to weaken. Increasing shortwave penetration in the high-latitude Southern Ocean causes an increase in the formation of mode water from subtropical water. The results suggest that more attention be paid to the processes distributing heat below the mixed layer.

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Alexandria M. Russell
and
Anand Gnanadesikan

Abstract

Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical Pacific vary as a result of the coupling between ocean and atmosphere driven largely by El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). ENSO amplitude is known to vary on long time scales, which makes it difficult to quantify its response to climate change and constrain the physical processes that drive it. To characterize the long-period variability in ocean–atmosphere coupling strengths, a linear regression of local SST changes is applied to the 4000-yr GFDL Climate Model, version 2.1 (CM2.1) and the 500-yr GFDL CM2 with Modular Ocean Model version 4p1 (MOM4p1) at coarse resolution (CM2Mc) preindustrial control runs, while also comparing to the observationally constrained Ensemble Coupled Data Assimilation (ECDA) dataset. The models produce regression coefficients that vary widely on multidecadal time scales. These variations are strongly reflected in the long-period modulation of ocean stratification and surface precipitation. During high variance periods, when there is stronger stratification and precipitation in the central equatorial Pacific, the ocean’s surface is less responsive to zonal wind stress perturbations, while the atmosphere is more responsive to SST perturbations. The mechanisms underlying this behavior are examined through an expansion of the linear regression equation to individual temperature tendency components. Long-term changes in ENSO amplitude are due to changes in both the oceanic response to the atmosphere, which is predominantly driven by regional changes in the advective and vertical diffusive heat tendencies, and the atmospheric response to the ocean.

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Amandeep Vashisht
,
Benjamin Zaitchik
, and
Anand Gnanadesikan

Abstract

Global climate models (GCMs) are critical tools for understanding and projecting climate variability and change, yet the performance of these models is notoriously weak over much of tropical Africa. To improve this situation, process-based studies of African climate dynamics and their representation in GCMs are required. Here, we focus on summer rainfall of eastern Africa (SREA), which is crucial to the Ethiopian Highlands and feeds the flow of the Blue Nile River. The SREA region is highly vulnerable to droughts, with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) being a leading cause of interannual rainfall variability. Adequate understanding and accurate representation of climate features that influence regional variability is an important but often neglected issue when evaluating models. We perform a process-based evaluation of GCMs, focusing on the upper-troposphere tropical easterly jet (TEJ), which has been hypothesized to link ENSO to SREA. We find that most models have an ENSO–TEJ coupling similar to observed, but the models diverge in their representation of TEJ–SREA coupling. Differences in the latter explain the majority (80%) of variability in ENSO teleconnection simulation across the models. This is higher than the variance explained by rainfall coupling with the Somali jet (44%) and African easterly jet (55%). However, our diagnostics of the leading hypothesized mechanism in the models—variability in divergence in the TEJ exit region—are not consistent across models and suggest that a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of TEJ–precipitation coupling should be a priority for studies of climate variability and change in the region.

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Kerry H. Cook
and
Anand Gnanadesikan

Abstract

A comprehensive rhomboidal-15 general circulation model with idealized boundary conditions is used to investigate the effects of interactions between the tropical circulation and continental climate on the precipitation distribution. Sea surface temperatures are fixed and zonally uniform and, along with the solar forcing, establish perpetual solstice conditions. Clouds are also prescribed and zonally uniform. Experiments with dry and saturated land surfaces an compared with an all-ocean control integration.

The winter hemisphere of the saturated continent is cooler than the prescribed ocean surface at the same latitude, and the summer hemisphere is warmer. When the surface is dry, the maximum summer hemisphere warming is four times larger than in the saturated surface case and extends into the winter hemisphere. The ITCZ is shifted farther into the summer hemisphere and enhanced near the coasts over the saturated continent, but it is interrupted in crossing the dry surface.

The modification of the precipitation distribution over the saturated land surface can be understood by considering the low-level flow. Over the dry surface, however, low-level horizontal moisture convergence and precipitation patterns are unrelated. The extreme dryness of the surface and the atmosphere below 830 mb eliminates condensation in the lower troposphere despite the increased instability of the tropical atmosphere. Condensation in the middle troposphere also decreases over the western half of the continent.

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Jordan Thomas
,
Darryn Waugh
, and
Anand Gnanadesikan

Abstract

The global ocean serves as a critical sink for anthropogenic carbon and heat. While significant effort has been dedicated to quantifying the oceanic uptake of these quantities, less research has been conducted on the mechanisms underlying decadal-to-centennial variability in oceanic heat and carbon. Therefore, little is understood about how much such variability may have obscured or reinforced anthropogenic change. Here the relationship between oceanic heat and carbon content is examined in a suite of coupled climate model simulations that use different parameterization settings for mesoscale mixing. The differences in mesoscale mixing result in very different multidecadal variability, especially in the Weddell Sea where the characteristics of deep convection are drastically changed. Although the magnitude and frequency of variability in global heat and carbon content is different across the model simulations, there is a robust anticorrelation between global heat and carbon content in all simulations. Global carbon content variability is primarily driven by Southern Ocean carbon variability. This contrasts with global heat content variability. Global heat content is primarily driven by variability in the southern midlatitudes and tropics, which opposes the Southern Ocean variability.

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Anand Gnanadesikan
,
Richard Kelson
, and
Michaela Sten

Abstract

A recent paper suggested that the global climate models used to project future climate changes may significantly overestimate the stability of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation under anthropogenic global warming. It further asserted that “flux adjusting” the models (adding offsets to heat and freshwater fluxes to reproduce the observed density field) may reduce model stability. However, temperature, salinity, and density fields in climate models likely deviate from observations because of biases in model physics as well as inaccuracies in fluxes. In such cases it is unclear whether adjusting the fluxes to produce a more realistic density field will result in a model with more realistic stability properties, as flux correction may be compensating for other inaccuracies in model formulation. We investigate this question using a simplified dynamical box model, in which we can flux correct one version of the model to match density gradients within another version of the model. We show that flux adjustment can realistically compensate for biases in stability associated with some processes, such as uncertainty in the value of the vertical diffusivity, but not other processes, such as inaccurate simulation of the relationship between density structure and overturning or the isopycnal tracer diffusivity coefficient. An ability to compensate for biases when the overturning shuts off does not imply an ability to compensate for biases in when it reestablishes itself, and vice versa.

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Anna Cabré
,
Irina Marinov
, and
Anand Gnanadesikan

Abstract

A 1000-yr control simulation in a low-resolution coupled atmosphere–ocean model from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) family of climate models shows a natural, highly regular multidecadal oscillation between periods of Southern Ocean (SO) open-ocean convection and nonconvective periods. It is shown here that convective periods are associated with warming of the SO sea surface temperatures (SSTs), and more broadly of the Southern Hemisphere (SH) SSTs and atmospheric temperatures. This SO warming results in a decrease in the meridional gradient of SSTs in the SH, changing the large-scale pressure patterns, reducing the midlatitude baroclinicity and thus the magnitude of the southern Ferrel and Hadley cells, and weakening the SO westerly winds and the SH tropical trade winds. The rearrangement of the atmospheric circulation is consistent with the global energy balance. During convective decades, the increase in incoming top-of-the-atmosphere radiation in the SH is balanced by an increase in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) outgoing radiation. The energy supplying this increase is carried by enhanced atmospheric transport across the equator, as the intertropical convergence zone and associated wind patterns shift southward, toward the anomalously warmer SH. While the critical role of the SO for climate on long, paleoclimate time scales is now beyond debate, the strength and global scale of the teleconnections observed here also suggest an important role for the SO in global climate dynamics on the shorter interannual and multidecadal time scales.

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