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Laura M. Ciasto and David W. J. Thompson

Abstract

The authors provide a detailed examination of observed ocean–atmosphere interaction in the Southern Hemisphere (SH). Focus is placed on the observed relationships between variability in SH extratropical sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies, the Southern Annular Mode (SAM), and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Results are examined separately for the warm (November–April) and cold (May–October) seasons and for monthly and weekly time scales. It is shown that the signatures of the SAM and ENSO in the SH SST field vary as a function of season, both in terms of their amplitudes and structures. The role of surface turbulent and Ekman heat fluxes in driving seasonal variations in the SAM- and ENSO-related SST anomalies is investigated. Analyses of weekly data reveal that variability in the SAM tends to precede anomalies in the SST field by ∼1 week, and that the e-folding time scale of the SAM-related SST field anomalies is at least 4 months. The persistence of the SAM-related SST anomalies is consistent with the passive thermal response of the Southern Ocean to variations in the SAM, and seasonal variations in the persistence of the SAM-related SST anomalies are consistent with the seasonal cycle in the depth of the ocean mixed layer.

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Laura M. Ciasto and David W. J. Thompson

Abstract

Observations of subsurface temperatures are used to examine the winter-to-winter “reemergence” of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the extratropical South Pacific Ocean. Reemergence is the mechanism through which SST anomalies formed in the late winter are sequestered beneath the relatively shallow summer mixed layer and then reentrained into the deepening mixed layer during the following autumn/winter. Although several studies have extensively examined reemergence in the Northern Hemisphere (NH), this is the first study to use observations of subsurface temperatures to document reemergence in the extratropical Southern Hemisphere (SH). The SH subsurface data reveal a pronounced reemergence signal in the western extratropical South Pacific. In this region, surface thermal anomalies formed during late SH winter are observed to persist below the summertime mixed layer and reemerge at the surface during the following early winter months. As such, SST anomalies formed during late winter are strongly correlated with SST anomalies during the following early winter but are not significantly correlated with SST anomalies during the intervening summer months. The results based on subsurface data are robust to small changes in the period of analysis and are qualitatively similar to existing evidence of reemergence in the NH. Analyses of independent SST data reveal that reemergence is widespread in the western extratropical South Pacific basin but is less discernible in SST anomalies over the eastern part of the basin.

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Laura M. Ciasto and David W. J. Thompson

Abstract

The authors examine wintertime atmosphere–ocean interaction on weekly time scales over the North Atlantic sector. Consistent with previous results, it is found that the strongest interactions between the ocean and atmosphere occur when the atmosphere leads. However, the authors also find a spatially coherent and statistically significant pattern of sea surface temperature anomalies over the Gulf Stream extension region that precedes changes in the leading mode of Northern Hemisphere atmospheric variablilty by ∼2 weeks.

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Samantha M. Wills, David W. J. Thompson, and Laura M. Ciasto

Abstract

The advent of increasingly high-resolution satellite observations and numerical models has led to a series of advances in understanding the role of midlatitude sea surface temperature (SST) in climate variability, especially near western boundary currents (WBC). Observational analyses suggest that ocean dynamics play a central role in driving interannual SST variability over the Kuroshio–Oyashio and Gulf Stream extensions. Numerical experiments suggest that variations in the SST field within these WBC regions may have a much more pronounced influence on the atmospheric circulation than previously thought.

In this study, the authors examine the observational support for (or against) a robust atmospheric response to midlatitude SST variability in the Gulf Stream extension. To do so, they apply lead–lag analysis based on daily mean data to assess the evidence for two-way coupling between SST anomalies and the atmospheric circulation on transient time scales, building off of previous studies that have utilized weekly data. A novel decomposition approach is employed to demonstrate that atmospheric circulation anomalies over the Gulf Stream extension can be separated into two distinct patterns of midlatitude atmosphere–ocean interaction: 1) a pattern that peaks 2–3 weeks before the largest SST anomalies in the Gulf Stream extension, which can be viewed as the “atmospheric forcing,” and 2) a pattern that peaks several weeks after the largest SST anomalies, which the authors argue can be viewed as the “atmospheric response.” The latter pattern is linearly independent of the former and is interpreted as the potential response of the atmospheric circulation to SST variability in the Gulf Stream extension.

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Laura M. Ciasto, Graham R. Simpkins, and Matthew H. England

Abstract

Teleconnections from tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies to the high-latitude Southern Hemisphere (SH) are examined using observations and reanalysis. Analysis of tropical Pacific SST anomalies is conducted separately for the central Pacific (CP) and eastern Pacific (EP) regions. During the austral cold season, extratropical SH atmospheric Rossby wave train patterns are observed in association with both EP and CP SST variability. The primary difference between the patterns is the westward displacement of the CP-related atmospheric anomalies, consistent with the westward elongation of CP-related convective SST required for upper-level divergence and Rossby wave generation. Consequently, CP-related patterns of SH SST, Antarctic sea ice, and temperature anomalies also exhibit a westward displacement, but otherwise, the cold season extratropical SH teleconnections are largely similar. During the warm season, however, extratropical SH teleconnections associated with tropical CP and EP SST anomalies differ substantially. EP SST variability is linked to largely zonally symmetric structures in the extratropical atmospheric circulation, which projects onto the southern annular mode (SAM), and is strongly related to the SH temperature and sea ice fields. In contrast, CP SST variability is only weakly related to the SH atmospheric circulation, temperature, or sea ice fields and no longer exhibits any clear association with the SAM. One hypothesized mechanism suggests that the relatively weak CP-related SST anomalies are not able to substantially impact the background flow of the subtropical jet and its subsequent interaction with equatorward-propagating waves associated with variability in the SAM. However, there is currently no widely established mechanism that links tropical Pacific SST anomalies to the SAM.

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Sebastian Schemm, Gwendal Rivière, Laura M. Ciasto, and Camille Li

Abstract

This study investigates mechanisms for changes in wintertime extratropical cyclogenesis over North America and the North Atlantic during different phases of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Insights into the relationship between the ENSO–North Atlantic teleconnection and the cyclogenesis changes are provided by diagnosing the relative roles of stationary wave propagation and transient eddies in setting cyclogenesis-conducive large-scale circulation anomalies. During La Niña winters, Rocky Mountain and Greenland cyclogenesis are enhanced, while Gulf Stream cyclogenesis is reduced. Diagnostics suggest that stationary waves of tropical origin work in tandem with transient eddies to amplify the ridge over the northeastern Pacific, establishing background flow anomalies that favor Rocky Mountain cyclogenesis; downstream, more transient eddies with an anticyclonic tilt push the North Atlantic jet poleward, favoring cyclogenesis near Greenland, while contributions from stationary waves are small. During central Pacific El Niño winters, the cyclogenesis situation is essentially the opposite: Rocky Mountain and Greenland cyclogenesis are reduced, while Gulf Stream cyclogenesis is enhanced. The analyses are consistent with stationary waves and transient eddies acting to weaken the climatological ridge over the northeastern Pacific, creating a more zonal Pacific jet; downstream, transient eddies with a cyclonic tilt push the North Atlantic jet equatorward, favoring Gulf Stream cyclogenesis. Anomalies in cyclogenesis frequencies, and the relative roles of transient and stationary waves, during eastern Pacific El Niño winters are associated with larger uncertainties.

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Sebastian Schemm, Laura M. Ciasto, Camille Li, and Nils Gunnar Kvamstø

Abstract

This study investigates the relationship between tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) variability and cyclogenesis over the Gulf Stream region of the North Atlantic. A cyclone identification scheme and Lagrangian trajectories are used to compare preferred cyclogenesis locations and precyclogenesis flow paths associated with three patterns of tropical Pacific SST variability: eastern Pacific (EP) El Niño, central Pacific (CP) El Niño, and La Niña. During EP El Niño and La Niña winters, the upper-level precyclogenesis flow takes a subtropical path over North America and Gulf Stream cyclogenesis predominantly occurs under the North Atlantic jet entrance, which is the climatologically preferred location. In contrast, during CP El Niño winters, when the warmest SST anomalies occur in the central tropical Pacific, the precyclogenesis flow takes a northern path across North America and Gulf Stream cyclogenesis tends to occur farther north under the jet exit. The shift in preferred cyclogenesis is consistent with changes in transient upstream flow perturbations, detected using potential vorticity (PV) streamer frequencies, which are associated with the stationary wave response. Compared to EP El Niño winters, CP El Niño winters exhibit fewer southward-extending streamers and cyclonic (LC2) flow behavior, resulting in precyclogenesis air bypassing the right entrance of the North Atlantic jet. Downstream, Gulf Stream cyclones penetrate deeper into high Arctic latitudes during CP El Niño winters than in other cases. The results highlight distinct signatures of tropical SST anomalies on synoptic-scale atmospheric features and could help constrain future changes in the North Atlantic storm track and the associated poleward heat transport.

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Laura M. Ciasto, Camille Li, Justin J. Wettstein, and Nils Gunnar Kvamstø

Abstract

This study investigates the sensitivity of the North Atlantic storm track to future changes in local and global sea surface temperature (SST) and highlights the role of SST changes remote to the North Atlantic. Results are based on three related coupled climate models: the Community Climate System Model, version 4 (CCSM4), the Community Earth System Model, version 1 (Community Atmosphere Model, version 5) [CESM1(CAM5)], and the Norwegian Earth System Model, version 1 (intermediate resolution) (NorESM1-M). Analysis reveals noticeable intermodel differences in projected storm-track changes from the coupled simulations [i.e., the difference in 200-hPa eddy activity between the representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) and historical scenarios]. In the CCSM4 coupled simulations, the North Atlantic storm track undergoes a poleward shift and eastward extension. In CESM1(CAM5), the storm-track change is dominated by an intensification and eastward extension. In NorESM1-M, the storm-track change is characterized by a weaker intensification and slight eastward extension. Atmospheric experiments driven only by projected local (North Atlantic) SST changes from the coupled models fail to reproduce the magnitude and structure of the projected changes in eddy activity aloft and zonal wind from the coupled simulations. Atmospheric experiments driven by global SST and sea ice changes do, however, reproduce the eastward extension. Additional experiments suggest that increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations do not directly influence storm-track changes in the coupled simulations, although they do through GHG-induced changes in SST. The eastward extension of the North Atlantic storm track is hypothesized to be linked to western Pacific SST changes that influence tropically forced Rossby wave trains, but further studies are needed to isolate this mechanism from other dynamical adjustments to global warming.

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Laura M. Ciasto, Michael A. Alexander, Clara Deser, and Matthew H. England

Abstract

In this study, a simple stochastic climate model is used to examine the impact of the ocean mixed layer depth, surface turbulent energy fluxes, and Ekman currents on the persistence of cold-season extratropical sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies associated with variability in the annular modes of atmospheric circulation in both hemispheres. Observational analysis reveals that during the cold season, SST anomalies associated with the southern annular mode (SSTSAM) persist considerably longer than those associated with the northern annular mode (SSTNAM). Using the simple model, it is shown that the persistence of the cold-season SSTSAM is consistent with the simple stochastic climate paradigm in which the atmospheric forcing is approximated as white noise, and the persistence of SST anomalies can be largely determined by the thermal inertia of the ocean mixed layer. In the North Atlantic, however, the simple climate model overestimates the persistence of the cold-season SSTNAM. It is thought that this overestimate occurs because the NAM-related heat flux forcing cannot be described purely as white noise but must also include a feedback from the underlying SST anomalies.

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Graham R. Simpkins, Shayne McGregor, Andréa S. Taschetto, Laura M. Ciasto, and Matthew H. England

Abstract

The austral spring relationships between sea surface temperature (SST) trends and the Southern Hemisphere (SH) extratropical atmospheric circulation are investigated using an atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM). A suite of simulations are analyzed wherein the AGCM is forced by underlying SST conditions in which recent trends are constrained to individual ocean basins (Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic), allowing the impact of each region to be assessed in isolation. When forced with observed global SST, the model broadly replicates the spatial pattern of extratropical SH geopotential height trends seen in reanalyses. However, when forcing by each ocean basin separately, similar structures arise only when Atlantic SST trends are included. It is further shown that teleconnections from the Atlantic are associated with perturbations to the zonal Walker circulation and the corresponding intensification of the local Hadley cell, the impact of which results in the development of atmospheric Rossby waves. Thus, increased Rossby waves, forced by positive Atlantic SST trends, may have played a role in driving geopotential height trends in the SH extratropics. Furthermore, these atmospheric circulation changes promote warming throughout the Antarctic Peninsula and much of West Antarctica, with a pattern that closely matches recent observational records. This suggests that Atlantic SST trends, via a teleconnection to the SH extratropics, may have contributed to springtime climatic change in the SH extratropics over the past three decades.

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