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Julie Deshayes, Ruth Curry, and Rym Msadek

Abstract

The subpolar North Atlantic is a center of variability of ocean properties, wind stress curl, and air–sea exchanges. Observations and hindcast simulations suggest that from the early 1970s to the mid-1990s the subpolar gyre became fresher while the gyre and meridional circulations intensified. This is opposite to the relationship of freshening causing a weakened circulation, most often reproduced by climate models. The authors hypothesize that both these configurations exist but dominate on different time scales: a fresher subpolar gyre when the circulation is more intense, at interannual frequencies (configuration A), and a saltier subpolar gyre when the circulation is more intense, at longer periods (configuration B). Rather than going into the detail of the mechanisms sustaining each configuration, the authors’ objective is to identify which configuration dominates and to test whether this depends on frequency, in preindustrial control runs of five climate models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). To this end, the authors have developed a novel intercomparison method that enables analysis of freshwater budget and circulation changes in a physical perspective that overcomes model specificities. Lag correlations and a cross-spectral analysis between freshwater content changes and circulation indices validate the authors’ hypothesis, as configuration A is only visible at interannual frequencies while configuration B is mostly visible at decadal and longer periods, suggesting that the driving role of salinity on the circulation depends on frequency. Overall, this analysis underscores the large differences among state-of-the-art climate models in their representations of the North Atlantic freshwater budget.

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Robin Waldman, Joël Hirschi, Aurore Voldoire, Christophe Cassou, and Rym Msadek

Abstract

This work aims to clarify the relation between the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and the thermal wind. We derive a new and generic dynamical AMOC decomposition that expresses the thermal wind transport as a simple vertical integral function of eastern minus western boundary densities. This allows us to express density anomalies at any depth as a geostrophic transport in Sverdrups (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) per meter and to predict that density anomalies around the depth of maximum overturning induce most AMOC transport. We then apply this formalism to identify the dynamical drivers of the centennial AMOC variability in the CNRM-CM6 climate model. The dynamical reconstruction and specifically the thermal wind component explain over 80% of the low-frequency AMOC variance at all latitudes, which is therefore almost exclusively driven by density anomalies at both zonal boundaries. This transport variability is dominated by density anomalies between depths of 500 and 1500 m, in agreement with theoretical predictions. At those depths, southward-propagating western boundary temperature anomalies induce the centennial geostrophic AMOC transport variability in the North Atlantic. They are originated along the western boundary of the subpolar gyre through the Labrador Sea deep convection and the Davis Strait overflow.

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Rym Msadek, William E. Johns, Stephen G. Yeager, Gokhan Danabasoglu, Thomas L. Delworth, and Anthony Rosati

Abstract

The link at 26.5°N between the Atlantic meridional heat transport (MHT) and the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is investigated in two climate models, the GFDL Climate Model version 2.1 (CM2.1) and the NCAR Community Climate System Model version 4 (CCSM4), and compared with the recent observational estimates from the Rapid Climate Change–Meridional Overturning Circulation and Heatflux Array (RAPID–MOCHA) array. Despite a stronger-than-observed MOC magnitude, both models underestimate the mean MHT at 26.5°N because of an overly diffuse thermocline. Biases result from errors in both overturning and gyre components of the MHT. The observed linear relationship between MHT and MOC at 26.5°N is realistically simulated by the two models and is mainly due to the overturning component of the MHT. Fluctuations in overturning MHT are dominated by Ekman transport variability in CM2.1 and CCSM4, whereas baroclinic geostrophic transport variability plays a larger role in RAPID. CCSM4, which has a parameterization of Nordic Sea overflows and thus a more realistic North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) penetration, shows smaller biases in the overturning heat transport than CM2.1 owing to deeper NADW at colder temperatures. The horizontal gyre heat transport and its sensitivity to the MOC are poorly represented in both models. The wind-driven gyre heat transport is northward in observations at 26.5°N, whereas it is weakly southward in both models, reducing the total MHT. This study emphasizes model biases that are responsible for the too-weak MHT, particularly at the western boundary. The use of direct MHT observations through RAPID allows for identification of the source of the too-weak MHT in the two models, a bias shared by a number of Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) coupled models.

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Mitchell Bushuk, Rym Msadek, Michael Winton, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Rich Gudgel, Anthony Rosati, and Xiaosong Yang

Abstract

Because of its persistence on seasonal time scales, Arctic sea ice thickness (SIT) is a potential source of predictability for summer sea ice extent (SIE). New satellite observations of SIT represent an opportunity to harness this potential predictability via improved thickness initialization in seasonal forecast systems. In this work, the evolution of Arctic sea ice volume anomalies is studied using a 700-yr control integration and a suite of initialized ensemble forecasts from a fully coupled global climate model. This analysis is focused on the September sea ice zone, as this is the region where thickness anomalies have the potential to impact the SIE minimum. The primary finding of this paper is that, in addition to a general decay with time, sea ice volume anomalies display a summer enhancement, in which anomalies tend to grow between the months of May and July. This summer enhancement is relatively symmetric for positive and negative volume anomalies and peaks in July regardless of the initial month. Analysis of the surface energy budget reveals that the summer volume anomaly enhancement is driven by a positive feedback between the SIT state and the surface albedo. The SIT state affects surface albedo through changes in the sea ice concentration field, melt-onset date, snow coverage, and ice thickness distribution, yielding an anomaly in the total absorbed shortwave radiation between May and August, which enhances the existing SIT anomaly. This phenomenon highlights the crucial importance of accurate SIT initialization and representation of ice–albedo feedback processes in seasonal forecast systems.

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Yohan Ruprich-Robert, Thomas Delworth, Rym Msadek, Frederic Castruccio, Stephen Yeager, and Gokhan Danabasoglu

Abstract

The impacts of the Atlantic multidecadal variability (AMV) on summertime North American climate are investigated using three coupled global climate models (CGCMs) in which North Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are restored to observed AMV anomalies. Large ensemble simulations are performed to estimate how AMV can modulate the occurrence of extreme weather such as heat waves. It is shown that, in response to an AMV warming, all models simulate a precipitation deficit and a warming over northern Mexico and the southern United States that lead to an increased number of heat wave days by about 30% compared to an AMV cooling. The physical mechanisms associated with these impacts are discussed. The positive tropical Atlantic SST anomalies associated with the warm AMV drive a Matsuno–Gill-like atmospheric response that favors subsidence over northern Mexico and the southern United States. This leads to a warming of the whole tropospheric column, and to a decrease in relative humidity, cloud cover, and precipitation. Soil moisture response to AMV also plays a role in the modulation of heat wave occurrence. An AMV warming favors dry soil conditions over northern Mexico and the southern United States by driving a year-round precipitation deficit through atmospheric teleconnections coming both directly from the North Atlantic SST forcing and indirectly from the Pacific. The indirect AMV teleconnections highlight the importance of using CGCMs to fully assess the AMV impacts on North America. Given the potential predictability of the AMV, the teleconnections discussed here suggest a source of predictability for the North American climate variability and in particular for the occurrence of heat waves at multiyear time scales.

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Frederic S. Castruccio, Yohan Ruprich-Robert, Stephen G. Yeager, Gokhan Danabasoglu, Rym Msadek, and Thomas L. Delworth

Abstract

Observed September Arctic sea ice has declined sharply over the satellite era. While most climate models forced by observed external forcing simulate a decline, few show trends matching the observations, suggesting either model deficiencies or significant contributions from internal variability. Using a set of perturbed climate model experiments, we provide evidence that atmospheric teleconnections associated with the Atlantic multidecadal variability (AMV) can drive low-frequency Arctic sea ice fluctuations. Even without AMV-related changes in ocean heat transport, AMV-like surface temperature anomalies lead to adjustments in atmospheric circulation patterns that produce similar Arctic sea ice changes in three different climate models. Positive AMV anomalies induce a decrease in the frequency of winter polar anticyclones, which is reflected both in the sea level pressure as a weakening of the Beaufort Sea high and in the surface temperature as warm anomalies in response to increased low-cloud cover. Positive AMV anomalies are also shown to favor an increased prevalence of an Arctic dipole–like sea level pressure pattern in late winter/early spring. The resulting anomalous winds drive anomalous ice motions (dynamic effect). Combined with the reduced winter sea ice formation (thermodynamic effect), the Arctic sea ice becomes thinner, younger, and more prone to melt in summer. Following a phase shift to positive AMV, the resulting atmospheric teleconnections can lead to a decadal ice thinning trend in the Arctic Ocean on the order of 8%–16% of the reconstructed long-term trend, and a decadal trend (decline) in September Arctic sea ice area of up to 21% of the observed long-term trend.

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Lakshmi Krishnamurthy, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Rym Msadek, Andrew Wittenberg, Thomas L. Delworth, and Fanrong Zeng

Abstract

This study investigates the seasonality of the relationship between the Great Plains low-level jet (GPLLJ) and the Pacific Ocean from spring to summer, using observational analysis and coupled model experiments. The observed GPLLJ and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) relation undergoes seasonal changes with a stronger GPLLJ associated with La Niña in boreal spring and El Niño in boreal summer. The ability of the GFDL Forecast-Oriented Low Ocean Resolution (FLOR) global coupled climate model, which has the high-resolution atmospheric and land components, to simulate the observed seasonality in the GPLLJ–ENSO relationship is assessed. The importance of simulating the magnitude and phase locking of ENSO accurately in order to better simulate its seasonal teleconnections with the Intra-Americas Sea (IAS) is demonstrated. This study explores the mechanisms for seasonal changes in the GPLLJ–ENSO relation in model and observations. It is hypothesized that ENSO affects the GPLLJ variability through the Caribbean low-level jet (CLLJ) during the summer and spring seasons. These results suggest that climate models with improved ENSO variability would advance our ability to simulate and predict seasonal variations of the GPLLJ and their associated impacts on the United States.

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Yohan Ruprich-Robert, Rym Msadek, Frederic Castruccio, Stephen Yeager, Tom Delworth, and Gokhan Danabasoglu

Abstract

The climate impacts of the observed Atlantic multidecadal variability (AMV) are investigated using the GFDL CM2.1 and the NCAR CESM1 coupled climate models. The model North Atlantic sea surface temperatures are restored to fixed anomalies corresponding to an estimate of the internally driven component of the observed AMV. Both models show that during boreal summer the AMV alters the Walker circulation and generates precipitation anomalies over the whole tropical belt. A warm phase of the AMV yields reduced precipitation over the western United States, drier conditions over the Mediterranean basin, and wetter conditions over northern Europe. During boreal winter, the AMV modulates by a factor of about 2 the frequency of occurrence of El Niño and La Niña events. This response is associated with anomalies over the Pacific that project onto the interdecadal Pacific oscillation pattern (i.e., Pacific decadal oscillation–like anomalies in the Northern Hemisphere and a symmetrical pattern in the Southern Hemisphere). This winter response is a lagged adjustment of the Pacific Ocean to the AMV forcing in summer. Most of the simulated global-scale impacts are driven by the tropical part of the AMV, except for the winter North Atlantic Oscillation–like response over the North Atlantic–European region, which is driven by both the subpolar and tropical parts of the AMV. The teleconnections between the Pacific and Atlantic basins alter the direct North Atlantic local response to the AMV, which highlights the importance of using a global coupled framework to investigate the climate impacts of the AMV. The similarity of the two model responses gives confidence that impacts described in this paper are robust.

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James F. Booth, Young-Oh Kwon, Stanley Ko, R. Justin Small, and Rym Msadek

Abstract

To improve the understanding of storm tracks and western boundary current (WBC) interactions, surface storm tracks in 12 CMIP5 models are examined against ERA-Interim. All models capture an equatorward displacement toward the WBCs in the locations of the surface storm tracks’ maxima relative to those at 850 hPa. An estimated storm-track metric is developed to analyze the location of the surface storm track. It shows that the equatorward shift is influenced by both the lower-tropospheric instability and the baroclinicity. Basin-scale spatial correlations between models and ERA-Interim for the storm tracks, near-surface stability, SST gradient, and baroclinicity are calculated to test the ability of the GCMs’ match reanalysis. An intermodel comparison of the spatial correlations suggests that differences (relative to ERA-Interim) in the position of the storm track aloft have the strongest influence on differences in the surface storm-track position. However, in the North Atlantic, biases in the surface storm track north of the Gulf Stream are related to biases in the SST. An analysis of the strength of the storm tracks shows that most models generate a weaker storm track at the surface than 850 hPa, consistent with observations, although some outliers are found. A linear relationship exists among the models between storm-track amplitudes at 500 and 850 hPa, but not between 850 hPa and the surface. In total, the work reveals a dual role in forcing the surface storm track from aloft and from the ocean surface in CMIP5 models, with the atmosphere having the larger relative influence.

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Mitchell Bushuk, Xiaosong Yang, Michael Winton, Rym Msadek, Matthew Harrison, Anthony Rosati, and Rich Gudgel

ABSTRACT

Dynamical prediction systems have shown potential to meet the emerging need for seasonal forecasts of regional Arctic sea ice. Observationally constrained initial conditions are a key source of skill for these predictions, but the direct influence of different observation types on prediction skill has not yet been systematically investigated. In this work, we perform a hierarchy of observing system experiments with a coupled global data assimilation and prediction system to assess the value of different classes of oceanic and atmospheric observations for seasonal sea ice predictions in the Barents Sea. We find notable skill improvements due to the inclusion of both sea surface temperature (SST) satellite observations and subsurface conductivity–temperature–depth (CTD) measurements. The SST data are found to provide the crucial source of interannual variability, whereas the CTD data primarily provide climatological and trend improvements. Analysis of the Barents Sea ocean heat budget suggests that ocean heat content anomalies in this region are driven by surface heat fluxes on seasonal time scales.

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