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Ming Feng
and
Susan Wijffels

Abstract

Satellite altimeter data reveal that the strongest intraseasonal variability in the southeast Indian Ocean occurs in the South Equatorial Current (SEC) during the second half of the year. The length scale of the variability is 100–150 km, with a westward phase speed of 15–19 cm s−1 and dominant periods between 40 and 80 days. A continuously stratified quasigeostrophic model is solved to analyze the baroclinic stability of the climatological SEC. Large growth rate of the instability waves (with e-folding timescale of less than 50 days) can be found east of the active region of intraseasonal variability during the July–September season, when the SEC and the Pacific to Indian Ocean throughflow are at their strongest. Geostrophic current shear in the upper 200-m ocean is crucial for the growth of the instability. The results suggest that the baroclinic instability draws most of its energy from the available potential energy associated with the throughflow, and, to a lesser degree, by local Ekman pumping. The predicted characteristics of the most unstable mode are consistent with both altimeter and profiling float observations. From all the available evidence, baroclinic instability seems to be the main cause of intraseasonal variability in the SEC. However, more field observations are necessary to properly address the possibility of combined barotropic/baroclinic instability.

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Jau-Ming Chen
and
Ching-Feng Shih

Abstract

Tropical cyclones (TCs) of a particular track type move northward along the open oceans to the east of Taiwan and later pass over or near northern Taiwan. Their northward movement may be associated with intensified monsoon southwesterly flows from the northern South China Sea (SCS) toward Taiwan. Prolonged heavy rainfall then occurs in western Taiwan across the landfall and postlandfall periods, leading to severe floods. Characteristics of this TC–southwesterly flow association and related large-scale regulatory processes of intraseasonal oscillations (ISOs) are studied. For summers from 1958 to 2009, 16 out of 108 TCs affecting Taiwan exhibit the aforementioned northward-moving track. Among them, four TCs (25%) concur with enhanced southwesterly flows. Intensified moisture supplies from the SCS result in strong moisture convergence and prolonged heavy rainfall in western Taiwan. Both 30–60- and 10–24-day ISOs make positive contributions to the TC–southwesterly flow association. Both ISOs exhibit the northward progress of a meridional circulation pair from the tropics toward Taiwan. During landfall and the ensuing few days, Taiwan is surrounded by a cyclonic anomaly to the north and an anticyclonic anomaly to the south of these two ISOs. The appearance of anomalous southwesterly–westerly flows acts to prolong heavy rainfall in western Taiwan after the departure of a TC. The TC–southwesterly flow association tends to occur during the minimum phase of the 30–60-day ISO featuring a cyclonic anomaly in the vicinity of Taiwan but in various phases of the 10–24-day ISO. Rainfall in western Taiwan increases when these two ISOs simultaneously exhibit a cyclonic anomaly to the north of Taiwan.

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Yuhong Zhang
,
Yan Du
, and
Ming Feng

Abstract

In this study, multiple time scale variability of the salinity dipole mode in the tropical Indian Ocean (S-IOD) is revealed based on the 57-yr Ocean Reanalysis System 4 (ORAS4) sea surface salinity (SSS) reanalysis product and associated observations. On the interannual time scale, S-IOD is highly correlated with strong Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) and ENSO variability, with ocean advection forced by wind anomalies along the equator and precipitation anomalies in the southeastern tropical Indian Ocean (IO) dominating the SSS variations in the northern and southern poles of the S-IOD, respectively. S-IOD variability is also associated with the decadal modulation of the Indo-Pacific Walker circulation, with a stronger signature at its southern pole. Decadal variations of the equatorial IO winds and precipitations in the central IO force zonal ocean advection anomalies that contribute to the SSS variability in the northern pole of S-IOD on the decadal time scale. Meanwhile, oceanic dynamics dominates the SSS variability in the southern pole of S-IOD off Western Australia. Anomalous ocean advection transports the fresher water from low latitudes to the region off Western Australia, with additional contributions from the Indonesian Throughflow. Furthermore, the southern pole of S-IOD is associated with the thermocline variability originated from the tropical northwestern Pacific through the waveguide in the Indonesian Seas, forced by decadal Pacific climate variability. A deepening (shoaling) thermocline strengthens (weakens) the southward advection of surface freshwater into the southern pole of S-IOD and contributes to the high (low) SSS signatures off Western Australia.

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Ming Feng
,
Roger Lukas
, and
Peter Hacker

Abstract

During the TOGA COARE Intensive Observing Period, an energetic, surface-intensified, submesoscale cyclonic eddy was observed in the near-equatorial western Pacific warm pool. The eddy appeared to have been generated as part of the spindown of a strong eastward surface jet forced by the December 1992 westerly wind burst. Because of its potential impacts on the long-term heat, salt, and momentum budgets of the warm pool, the authors provide a thorough description of the evolution of the surface jet and the development of the eddy in the present study. Both the isopycnal surface fit and the zeroth-order dynamic balance confirm the existence of the eddy. Surface layer convergence and northward inertial motion are suggested to be the main causes of the negative eddy vorticity, and it is likely that the eddy drew its energy from the decaying surface jet. This study indicates that in the near-equatorial region the inertial motion has a decreasing meridional spatial scale with time, (βt)−1, due to the β effect, which increases the Rossby number of the decaying jet and generates the nonlinearity.

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Ming Feng
,
Humio Mitsudera
, and
Yasushi Yoshikawa

Abstract

Four years of mooring array measurements in Tokara Strait, south of Kyushu, Japan, from 1992 to 1996 are used to analyze the structure and temporal variability of the Kuroshio Current. The mean Kuroshio current in Tokara Strait shows a nearly permanent subsurface double-core structure, possibly due to topographic blockage effects.

The dominant variations of the Kuroshio in Tokara Strait are separated into long-term variability (typically 100-day period) and short-term variability (10 days to 1 month) according to spectrum and wavelet analysis. The long-term variability has a large horizontal scale across the strait, with a striking twofold banded structure in spatial correlations. This is due to the north–south Kuroshio axis shift that advects the double-core structure of the mean current. The axis shift can be indexed with the northeastward current velocity at the northernmost station; a composite analysis using this index shows well-defined northward and southward axis shift structures of the Kuroshio current. From the composite of the TOPEX/Poseidon sea level anomaly in terms of this index, the Kuroshio axis shift and the current structure change are associated with a dipole-shape sea level anomaly east of Tokara Strait. On the other hand, the short-term variability of high kinetic energy only has a small horizontal scale within the northern part of the current, which is related to frontal variability.

There exists a deep southwestward undercurrent below 600 m in the northern part of Tokara Strait, flowing along the isobaths. The undercurrent becomes stronger during the northward shift of the Kuroshio axis, while it almost disappears during the southward shift.

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Ming Cai
,
Xiaoming Hu
,
Jie Sun
,
Feng Ding
, and
Jing Feng

Abstract

This paper introduces a climate feedback kernel, referred to as the “energy gain kernel” (EGK). EGK allows for separating the net longwave radiative energy perturbations given by a Planck feedback matrix explicitly into thermal energy emission perturbations of individual layers, and thermal radiative energy flux convergence perturbations at individual layers resulting from the coupled atmosphere-surface temperature changes in response to the unit forcing in individual layers. The former is represented by the diagonal matrix of a Planck feedback matrix and the latter by EGK. Elements of EGK are all positive, representing amplified energy perturbations at a layer where forcing is imposed and energy gained at other layers, both of which are achieved through radiative thermal coupling within an atmosphere-surface column.

Applying EGK to input energy perturbations, whether external or internal due to responses of non-temperature feedback processes to external energy perturbations, such as water vapor and albedo feedbacks, yields their total energy perturbations amplified through radiative thermal coupling within an atmosphere-surface column.

As the strength of EGK depends exclusively on climate mean states, it offers a solution for effectively and objectively separating control climate state information from climate perturbations for climate feedback studies. Given that an EGK comprises critical climate mean state information on mean temperature, water vapor, clouds, and surface pressure, we envision that the diversity of EGK across different climate models could provide insight into the inquiry of why, under the same anthropogenic greenhouse gas increase scenario, different models yield varying degrees of global mean surface warming.

Open access
Ming Feng
,
Susan Wijffels
,
Stuart Godfrey
, and
Gary Meyers

Abstract

The Leeuwin Current is a poleward-flowing eastern boundary current off the western Australian coast, and alongshore momentum balance in the current has been hypothesized to comprise a southward pressure gradient force balanced by northward wind and bottom stresses. This alongshore momentum balance is revisited using a high-resolution upper-ocean climatology to determine the alongshore pressure gradient and altimeter and mooring observations to derive an eddy-induced Reynolds stress. Results show that north of the Abrolhos Islands (situated near the shelf break between 28.2° and 29.3°S), the alongshore momentum balance is between the pressure gradient and wind stress. South of the Abrolhos Islands, the Leeuwin Current is highly unstable and strong eddy kinetic energy is observed offshore of the current axis. The alongshore momentum balance on the offshore side of the current reveals an increased alongshore pressure gradient, weakened alongshore wind stress, and a significant Reynolds stress exerted by mesoscale eddies. The eddy Reynolds stress has a −0.5 Sv (Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) correction to the Indonesian Throughflow transport estimate from Godfrey’s island rule. The mesoscale eddies draw energy from the mean current through mixed barotropic and baroclinic instability, and the pressure gradient work overcomes the negative wind work to supply energy for the instability process. Hence the anomalous large-scale pressure gradient in the eastern Indian Ocean drives the strongest eddy kinetic energy level among all the midlatitude eastern boundary currents.

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Jau-Ming Chen
,
Tim Li
, and
Ching-Feng Shih

Abstract

This study investigates the interannual variability of tropical cyclone (TC)- and monsoon-induced rainfall (P) in Taiwan during July–September for the period 1950–2002. To examine the relative effects of TCs and monsoons, local rainfall in Taiwan is separated into two subcomponents: TC rainfall (P TC) and seasonal monsoon rainfall (P SM). The former is induced by TC passage across Taiwan, while the later is caused by large-scale monsoon circulation.

Climatologically, P TC and P SM accounts for 47.5% and 52.5% of total rainfall in Taiwan, respectively, showing a comparable contribution. On an interannual time scale, P TC and P SM anomalies tend to vary inversely. Two dominant rainfall variability types are found in Taiwan: enhanced P TC but suppressed P SM (T+S−) and suppressed P TC but enhanced P SM (T−S+). The T+S− type features a low-level anomalous cyclone and enhanced upward motion southeast of Taiwan. This favorable environmental condition leads to more TC formation in the region. TCs are further steered by mean southeasterly flows toward Taiwan to increase P TC (T+). As Taiwan is located in the western boundary of the anomalous cyclone, anomalous northeasterly water vapor fluxes hinder moisture supplies from the South China Sea into Taiwan, resulting in decreased P SM (S−). The T−S+ type concurs with an anomalous cyclone over Taiwan. Its center enhances upward motion and moisture fluxes from the South China Sea into Taiwan, yielding increased P SM (S+). Meanwhile, weak relative vorticity anomalies occur to the southeast of Taiwan, suppressing TC formation in the region. Mean southerly steering flows tend to drive more TCs toward Japan and the North Pacific, resulting in decreased TC frequency and P TC in Taiwan (T−).

The present approach provides a new perspective for studying and predicting interannual rainfall variability via the separation of rainfall into TC- and monsoon-induced rainfall subcomponents, rather than looking solely at total rainfall. The result shows that there are two ways to significantly increase total rainfall in Taiwan (T+S− and T−S+), but there is only one way to decrease it (T−S−). The composites of circulation anomalies based on two rainfall indexes have more significant and coherent dynamic patterns than those sorted based on the total rainfall index.

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Ming Cai
,
Jie Sun
,
Feng Ding
,
Wanying Kang
, and
Xiaoming Hu

Abstract

The slope of the quasi-linear relation between planetary outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) and surface temperature (TS ) is an important parameter measuring the sensitivity of Earth’s climate system. The primary objective of this study is to seek a general explanation for the quasi-linear OLR–TS relation that remains valid regardless of the strength of the atmospheric window’s narrowing effect on planetary thermal emission at higher temperatures. The physical understanding of the quasi-linear OLR–TS relation and its slope is gained from observation analysis, climate simulations with radiative–convective equilibrium and general circulation models, and a series of online feedback suppression experiments. The observed quasi-linear OLR–TS relation manifests a climate footprint of radiative (such as the greenhouse effect) and nonradiative processes (poleward energy transport). The former acts to increase the meridional gradient of surface temperature and the latter decreases the meridional gradient of atmospheric temperatures, causing the flattening of the meridional profile of the OLR. Radiative processes alone can lead to a quasi-linear OLR–TS relation that is more steeply sloped. The atmospheric poleward energy transport alone can also lead to a quasi-linear OLR–TS relation by rerouting part of the OLR to be emitted from a warmer place to a colder place. The combined effects of radiative and nonradiative processes make the quasi-linear OLR–TS relation less sloped with a higher degree of linearity. In response to anthropogenic radiative forcing, the slope of the quasi-linear OLR–TS relation is further reduced via stronger water vapor feedback and enhanced poleward energy transport.

Significance Statement

The slope of the quasi-linear relation between planetary outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) and surface temperature (TS ) is an important parameter measuring the sensitivity of Earth’s climate system. The observed quasi-linear OLR–TS relation manifests a climate footprint of radiative (greenhouse effect) and nonradiative processes (poleward energy transport). Radiative processes alone can lead to a quasi-linear OLR–TS relation that is more steeply sloped. The atmospheric poleward energy transport alone can also lead to a quasi-linear OLR–TS relation by rerouting part of the OLR to be emitted from a warmer place to a colder place. The combined effects of radiative and nonradiative processes make the quasi-linear OLR–TS relation less sloped with a higher degree of linearity.

Open access
Jau-Ming Chen
,
Tim Li
, and
Ching-Feng Shih

Abstract

The authors investigate persistence characteristics of sea surface temperature (SST) in the South China Sea (SCS) in association with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). It is found that a persistence barrier exists around October and November. This fall persistence barrier (FPB) is well recognized in the developing phase of strong ENSO cases, but becomes vague in weak ENSO and normal (non-ENSO) cases. During a strong El Niño developing year, salient features of the SCS SST anomaly (SSTA) associated with the FPB include a sign reversal between summer and winter and a rapid warming during fall. One possible cause of these SST changes, as well as the occurrence of the FPB, is the development and evolution of a low-level anomalous anticyclone (LAAC). The analyses show that the LAAC emerges in the northern Indian Ocean in early northern fall, moves eastward into the SCS during fall, and eventually anchors in the Philippine Sea in northern winter. This provides a new scenario for the generation of the anomalous Philippine Sea anticyclone previously studied. Its eastward movement appears to result from an east–west asymmetry, relative to the anticyclonic circulation center, of divergent flow and associated atmospheric vertical motion/moisture fields. The eastward passage of the LAAC across the SCS warms the underlying SST first via increased absorption of solar heating in October as it suppresses convective activities in situ, and next via decreased evaporative cooling in November and December as the total wind speed is weakened by the outer flows of the eastward-displacing LAAC. As such, the SCS SST changes quickly from a cold to a warm anomaly during fall, resulting in an abrupt change in anomaly patterns and the occurrence of the FPB. Analyses also suggest that the LAAC development during fall is relatively independent from the preceding Indian summer monsoon and the longitudinal propagation features of the ENSO-related Pacific SSTA. The aforementioned ocean–atmosphere anomalies contain an opposite polarity in a strong La Niña event. The low-level circulation anomaly weakens in intensity during weak ENSO cases and simply disappears during normal cases. As a result, the SCS FPB becomes indiscernible in these cases.

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