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Bertrand Timbal, Julie M. Arblaster, and Scott Power

Abstract

There was a dramatic decrease in rainfall in the southwest of Australia (SWA) in the mid-1960s. A statistical method, based on the idea of analogous synoptic situations, is used to help clarify the cause of the drying. The method is designed to circumvent error in the rainfall simulated directly by a climate model, and to exploit the ability of the model to simulate large-scale fields reasonably well. The method uses relationships between patterns of various atmospheric fields with station records of rainfall to improve the simulation of the local rainfall spatial variability. The original technique was developed in a previous study. It is modified here for application to two four-member ensembles of simulations of the climate from 1870 to 1999 performed with the Parallel Climate Model (PCM). The first ensemble, called “natural,” is forced with natural variations in both volcanic activity and solar forcing. The second ensemble, called “full forcing,” also includes three types of human-induced forcing resulting from changes in greenhouse gases, ozone, and aerosols. The full-forcing runs provide a better match to observational changes in sea surface temperature in the vicinity of SWA. The observed rainfall decline is not well captured by rainfall changes simulated directly by the model in either ensemble. There is a hint that the fully forced ensemble is more realistic, but it is nothing more than a hint. The downscaling approach, on the other hand, provides a much more accurate reproduction of the day-to-day variability of rainfall in SWA than the rainfall simulated directly by the model. The downscaled ensemble mean rainfall in full forcing declines over the region with a spatial pattern that is similar to the observed decline. This contrasts with an increase of rainfall in the downscaled rainfall in the natural ensemble. These results give the clearest indication yet that anthropogenic forcing played a role in the drying of SWA. Note, however, that ambiguities remain. For example, although the observed decline fits within the range of downscaled model simulation, the ensemble mean rainfall decline is only about half of the observed estimate, the timing differs from the observations, drying did not occur in the downscaling of one of the four full-forced ensemble members, and not all potential forcing mechanisms are included in full forcing (e.g., land surface changes). Furthermore, while the observed rainfall decline was a sharp reduction in the 1960s, followed by a near-constant rainfall regime, the full-forcing ensemble suggests a more gradual rainfall decline over 40 yr from 1960.

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Julie M. Arblaster and Gerald A. Meehl

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An observed trend in the Southern Hemisphere annular mode (SAM) during recent decades has involved an intensification of the polar vortex. The source of this trend is a matter of scientific debate with stratospheric ozone losses, greenhouse gas increases, and natural variability all being possible contenders. Because it is difficult to separate the contribution of various external forcings to the observed trend, a state-of-the-art global coupled model is utilized here. Ensembles of twentieth-century simulations forced with the observed time series of greenhouse gases, tropospheric and stratospheric ozone, sulfate aerosols, volcanic aerosols, solar variability, and various combinations of these are used to examine the annular mode trends in comparison to observations, in an attempt to isolate the response of the climate system to each individual forcing. It is found that ozone changes are the biggest contributor to the observed summertime intensification of the southern polar vortex in the second half of the twentieth century, with increases of greenhouse gases also being a necessary factor in the reproduction of the observed trends at the surface. Although stratospheric ozone losses are expected to stabilize and eventually recover to preindustrial levels over the course of the twenty-first century, these results show that increasing greenhouse gases will continue to intensify the polar vortex throughout the twenty-first century, but that radiative forcing will cause widespread temperature increases over the entire Southern Hemisphere.

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Gerald A. Meehl and Julie M. Arblaster

Abstract

In the context of the Asian–Australian monsoon, the tropospheric biennial oscillation (TBO) is defined as the tendency for a relatively strong monsoon to be followed by a relatively weak one, and vice versa. Therefore the TBO is not so much an oscillation, but a tendency for the system to flip-flop back and forth from year to year. The more of these interannual flip-flops or transitions, the more biennial the system. The transitions occur in northern spring for the south Asian or Indian monsoon and in northern fall for the Australian monsoon involving coupled land–atmosphere–ocean processes over a large area of the Indo-Pacific region. There is considerable seasonal persistence from the south Asian to Australian monsoon as noted in previous studies, with a strong south Asian or Indian monsoon tending to precede a strong Australian monsoon and vice versa for weak monsoons. Therefore, transitions from March–May (MAM) to June–September (JJAS) tend to set the system for the next year, with a transition to the opposite sign the following year. Quantifying the role of the conditions that contribute to these transitions in the TBO and their relationship to ENSO is crucial for verifying their accurate representation in models, which should lead to improved seasonal forecast skill. An analysis of observed data shows that the TBO (with roughly a 2–3-yr period) encompasses most ENSO years (with their well-known biennial tendency) as well as additional years that contribute to biennial transitions. Thus the TBO is a fundamental feature of the coupled climate system over the entire Indian–Pacific region. El Niño and La Niña events as well as Indian Ocean SST dipole events are large amplitude excursions of the TBO in the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans, respectively, associated with coupled ocean dynamics, upper-ocean temperature anomalies, and associated ocean heat content anomalies. Conditions postulated to contribute to TBO transitions involve anomalous Asian land surface temperatures, Pacific and Indian Ocean SST anomalies, and the associated strength of the convective maximum over Australasia. These interannual transition conditions are quantified from singular value decomposition (SVD) analyses on a year-by-year basis using single and cumulative anomaly pattern correlations. This technique takes into account intermittent influences and secular variations in the strength of any particular association in any given year. Anomalous Pacific and Indian Ocean SSTs are the dominant transition conditions in the TBO, with anomalous meridional temperature gradients over Asia a secondary factor. There is an intrinsic coupling of the anomalous strength of the convective maximum in the seasonal cycle over Australasia, surface wind forcing, ocean dynamical response, and associated SST anomalies that feed back to the strength of the convective maximum, and so on. All are tied together by the large-scale east–west circulation, the eastern and western Walker cells, in the atmosphere. By omitting El Niño and La Niña onset years from the analysis, there are similar but lower-amplitude relationships among the transition conditions and Asian–Australian monsoon rainfall. An SST transition in the Pacific is started by surface wind anomalies in the far western equatorial Pacific associated with the Australian monsoon, while an SST transition in the Indian Ocean is started by surface wind anomalies in the western equatorial Indian Ocean associated with the Indian monsoon. This provides successive forcing and response among Indian and Pacific SSTs and the Asian–Australian monsoons half a year apart. The consequent feedback to the monsoon circulations by the SST anomalies results in the TBO.

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Gerald A. Meehl and Julie M. Arblaster

Abstract

Observational studies have shown that the tropospheric biennial oscillation (TBO) involves transitions that occur from northern spring [March–April–May (MAM)] to the Indian monsoon season [June–July–August–September (JJAS)] such that a relatively strong monsoon the previous year is often followed by a relatively weak one, and vice versa. Several conditions involving anomalous land and ocean surface temperature anomalies in the Indo-Pacific region in MAM have been identified to be associated with TBO monsoon transitions. Though it is possible to quantify the relative contribution of each transition condition year by year in observations, they are interrelated and the question remains whether each condition by itself could cause a monsoon transition. Here, a series of GCM sensitivity experiments is performed to isolate the effects of each of the transition conditions to document their respective influences on the anomalous patterns of monsoon rainfall associated with TBO transitions. Three conditions postulated to contribute to these TBO transitions associated with Indian monsoon rainfall are 1) atmospheric circulation–related anomalous south Asian land temperatures and resulting meridional temperature gradients, 2) anomalous SSTs in the Indian Ocean, and 3) anomalous tropical Pacific SSTs. Sensitivity experiments with an atmospheric GCM (the NCAR CCM3) are performed to address these conditions by specifying 1) warmer land temperatures over Asia to produce a stronger meridional temperature gradient, 2) warm Indian Ocean SST anomalies, and 3) cold Pacific Ocean SST anomalies. The model results demonstrate that each of the transition conditions is associated with distinct physical processes and can contribute to a relative TBO transition in monsoon strength by themselves. The anomalous tropical Indian and Pacific Ocean SST anomalies produce a larger monsoon response in the model compared to the anomalous meridional temperature gradient over Asia indicating they are the dominant conditions associated with TBO transitions. The location of the SST anomalies over the tropical Indian Ocean is important, with warm SST anomalies throughout the tropical Indian Ocean producing enhanced rainfall over the ocean and south Asian land areas, and warm SST anomalies near the equatorial Indian Ocean producing increased rainfall locally with decreased rainfall over south Asian land areas. Case studies from observations illustrate that the various transition conditions are evident in the raw data in individual years. Several more GCM experiments are performed to show how some conditions can act cumulatively to produce monsoon transitions.

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Gerald A. Meehl and Julie M. Arblaster

Abstract

Features associated with the Asian–Australian monsoon system and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are described in the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) global coupled Climate System Model (CSM). Simulation characteristics are compared with a version of the atmospheric component of the CSM, the NCAR CCM3, run with time-evolving SSTs from 1950 to 1994, and with observations. The CSM is shown to represent most major features of the monsoon system in terms of mean climatology, interannual variability, and connections to the tropical Pacific. This includes a representation of the Southern Oscillation links between strong Asian–Australian monsoons and associated negative SST anomalies in the eastern equatorial Pacific. The equatorial SST gradient across the Pacific in the CSM is shown to be similar to the observed with somewhat cooler mean SSTs across the entire Pacific by about 1°–2°C. The seasonal cycle of SSTs in the eastern equatorial Pacific has the characteristic signature seen in the observations of relatively warmer SSTs propagating westward in the first half of the year followed by the reestablishment of the cold tongue with relatively colder SSTs propagating westward in the second half of the year. Like other global coupled models, the propagation is similar to the observed but with the establishment of the relatively warmer water in the first half of the year occurring about 1–2 months later than observed. The seasonal cycle of precipitation in the tropical eastern Pacific is also similar to other global coupled models in that there is a tendency for a stronger-than-observed double ITCZ year round, particularly in northern spring, but with a well-reproduced annual maximum of ITCZ strength north of the equator in the second half of the year. Time series of area-averaged SSTs for the NINO3 region in the eastern equatorial Pacific show that the CSM is producing about 60% of the amplitude of the observed variability in that region, consistent with most other global coupled models. Global correlations between NINO3 time series, global surface temperatures, and sea level pressure (SLP) show that the CSM qualitatively reproduces the major spatial patterns associated with the Southern Oscillation (lower SLP in the central and eastern tropical Pacific when NINO3 SSTs are relatively warmer and higher SLP over the far western Pacific and Indian Oceans, with colder water in the northwest and southwest Pacific). Indices of Asian–Australian monsoon strength are negatively correlated with NINO3 SSTs as in the observations. Spectra of time series of Indian monsoon, Australian monsoon, and NINO3 SST indices from the CSM show amplitude peaks in the Southern Oscillation and tropospheric biennial oscillation frequencies (3–6 yr and about 2.3 yr, respectively) as observed. Lag correlations between the NINO3 SST index and upper-ocean heat content along the equator show eastward propagation of heat content anomalies with a phase speed of about 0.3 m s−1, compared to observed values of roughly 0.2 m s−1. Composites of El Niño (La Niña) events in the CSM show similar seasonal evolution to composites of observed events with warming (cooling) of greater than several tenths of a degree beginning early in northern spring of year 0 and diminishing around northern spring of year +1, but with a secondary resurgence in the CSM events later in northern spring of year +1. The CSM also shows the largest amplitude ENSO SST and low-level wind anomalies in the western tropical Pacific, with enhanced interannual variability of SSTs extending northeastward and southeastward toward the subtropics, compared to largest interannual SST variability in the central and eastern tropical Pacific in the observations.

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Gerald A. Meehl and Julie M. Arblaster

Abstract

The forced response coincident with peaks in the 11-yr decadal solar oscillation (DSO) has been shown to resemble a cold event or La Niña–like pattern during December–February (DJF) in the Pacific region in observations and two global coupled climate models. Previous studies with filtered observational and model data have indicated that there could be a lagged warm event or El Niño–like response following the peaks in the DSO forcing by a few years. Here, observations and two climate model simulations are examined, and it is shown that dynamical coupled processes initiated by the response in the tropical Pacific to peaks in solar forcing produce wind-forced ocean Rossby waves near 5°N and 5°S. These reflect off the western boundary, producing downwelling equatorial Kelvin waves that contribute to transitioning the tropical Pacific to a warm event or El Niño–like pattern that lags the peaks in solar forcing by a few years.

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Gerald A. Meehl and Julie M. Arblaster

Abstract

A set of dynamically coupled ocean–atmosphere mechanisms has previously been proposed for the Asia–Pacific tropics to produce a dominant biennial component of interannual variability [the tropospheric biennial oscillation (TBO)]. Namely, a strong Asian–Australian monsoon is often associated with negative SST anomalies in the equatorial eastern Pacific and a negative Indian Ocean dipole in northern fall between the strong Indian monsoon and strong Australian monsoon, and tends to be followed by a weak monsoon and positive SST anomalies in the Pacific the following year and so on. These connections are communicated through the large-scale east–west (Walker) circulation that involves the full depth of the troposphere. However, the Asia–Pacific climate system is characterized by intermittent decadal fluctuations whereby the TBO during some time periods is more pronounced than others. Observations and models are analyzed to identify processes that make the system less biennial at certain times due to one or some combination of the following:

  1. increased latitudinal extent of Pacific trade winds and wider cold tongue;
  2. warmer tropical Pacific compared to tropical Indian Ocean that weakens trade winds and reduces coupling strength;
  3. eastward shift of the Walker circulation;
  4. reduced interannual variability of Pacific and/or Indian Ocean SSTs.

Decadal time-scale SST variability associated with the interdecadal Pacific oscillation (IPO) has been shown to alter the TBO over the Indo-Pacific region by contributing changes in either some or all of the four factors listed above. Analysis of a multicentury control run of the Community Climate System Model, version 4 (CCSM4), shows that this decadal modulation of interannual variability is transferred via the Walker circulation to the Asian–Australian monsoon region, thus affecting the TBO and monsoon–Pacific connections. Understanding these processes is important to be able to evaluate decadal predictions and longer-term climate change in the Asia–Pacific region.

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Gerald A. Meehl, Julie M. Arblaster, and Grant Branstator

Abstract

A linear trend calculated for observed annual mean surface air temperatures over the United States for the second-half of the twentieth century shows a slight cooling over the southeastern part of the country, the so-called warming hole, while temperatures over the rest of the country rose significantly. This east–west gradient of average temperature change has contributed to the observed pattern of changes of record temperatures as given by the ratio of daily record high temperatures to record low temperatures with a comparable east–west gradient. Ensemble averages of twentieth-century climate simulations in the Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3), show a slight west–east warming gradient but no warming hole. A warming hole appears in only several ensemble members in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3) multimodel dataset and in one ensemble member of simulated twentieth-century climate in CCSM3. In this model the warming hole is produced mostly from internal decadal time-scale variability originating mainly from the equatorial central Pacific associated with the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO). Analyses of a long control run of the coupled model, and specified convective heating anomaly experiments in the atmosphere-only version of the model, trace the forcing of the warming hole to positive convective heating anomalies in the central equatorial Pacific Ocean near the date line. Cold-air advection into the southeastern United States in winter, and low-level moisture convergence in that region in summer, contribute most to the warming hole in those seasons. Projections show a disappearance of the warming hole, but ongoing greater surface temperature increases in the western United States compared to the eastern United States.

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Kerry H. Cook, Gerald A. Meehl, and Julie M. Arblaster

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This is the second part of a two part series studying simulation characteristics of the Community Climate System Model, version 4 (CCSM4) for various monsoon regimes around the global tropics. Here, the West African, East African, North American, and South American monsoons are documented in CCSM4. Comparisons are made to an Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) simulation of the atmospheric component in CCSM4 (CAM4), to deduce differences in the monsoon simulations run with observed SSTs and with ocean–atmosphere coupling. These simulations are also compared to a previous version of the coupled model (CCSM3) to evaluate progress. In most, but not all instances, monsoon rainfall is too heavy in the uncoupled AMIP run with the Community Atmosphere Model, version 4 (CAM4), and monsoon rainfall amounts are generally better simulated with ocean coupling in CCSM4. Some aspects of the monsoon simulations are improved in CCSM4 compared to CCSM3. Early-season rainfall in the West African monsoon is better simulated in CAM4 than in CCSM4 presumably because of the specification of SSTs in the Gulf of Guinea, but the Sahel rainfall season is captured better in CCSM4 as are the African easterly jet and the tropical easterly jet. Improvements in the simulation of the Sahel rainy season (July, August, and September) in CCSM4 compared with CCSM3 are significant, but problems remain in the simulation of the early season (May and June) in association with the misrepresentation of eastern Atlantic (Gulf of Guinea) SSTs. Precipitation distributions and the southwesterly low-level inflow in the North American monsoon are improved in CCSM4 compared to CCSM3. Both CAM4 and CCSM4 reproduce the seasonal evolution of rainfall over the South American monsoon region, but the location of maximum rainfall is misplaced to the northeast in both models.

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Gerald A. Meehl, Julie M. Arblaster, and Johannes Loschnigg

Abstract

The transitions (from relatively strong to relatively weak monsoon) in the tropospheric biennial oscillation (TBO) occur in northern spring for the south Asian or Indian monsoon and northern fall for the Australian monsoon involving coupled land–atmosphere–ocean processes over a large area of the Indo-Pacific region. Transitions from March–May (MAM) to June–September (JJAS) tend to set the system for the next year, with a transition to the opposite sign the following year. Previous analyses of observed data and GCM sensitivity experiments have demonstrated that the TBO (with roughly a 2–3-yr period) encompasses most ENSO years (with their well-known biennial tendency). In addition, there are other years, including many Indian Ocean dipole (or zonal mode) events, that contribute to biennial transitions. Results presented here from observations for composites of TBO evolution confirm earlier results that the Indian and Pacific SST forcings are more dominant in the TBO than circulation and meridional temperature gradient anomalies over Asia. A fundamental element of the TBO is the large-scale east–west atmospheric circulation (the Walker circulation) that links anomalous convection and precipitation, winds, and ocean dynamics across the Indian and Pacific sectors. This circulation connects convection over the Asian–Australian monsoon regions both to the central and eastern Pacific (the eastern Walker cell), and to the central and western Indian Ocean (the western Walker cell). Analyses of upper-ocean data confirm previous results and show that ENSO El Niño and La Niña events as well as Indian Ocean SST dipole (or zonal mode) events are often large-amplitude excursions of the TBO in the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans, respectively, associated with anomalous eastern and western Walker cell circulations, coupled ocean dynamics, and upper-ocean temperature and heat content anomalies. Other years with similar but lower-amplitude signals in the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans also contribute to the TBO. Observed upper-ocean data for the Indian Ocean show that slowly eastward-propagating equatorial ocean heat content anomalies, westward-propagating ocean Rossby waves south of the equator, and anomalous cross-equatorial ocean heat transports contribute to the heat content anomalies in the Indian Ocean and thus to the ocean memory and consequent SST anomalies, which are an essential part of the TBO.

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