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Soon-Il An

Abstract

This study introduces the conditional maximum covariance analysis (CMCA). The normal maximum covariance analysis (MCA) is a method that isolates the most coherent pairs of spatial patterns and their associated time series by performing an eigenanalysis on the temporal covariance matrix between two geophysical fields. Different from the normal MCA, the CMCA not only isolates the most coherent patterns between two fields but also excludes the unwanted signal by subtracting the regressed value of each employed field that depends on the unwanted signal.

To evaluate the usefulness of the CMCA, it is applied to the tropical Indian Ocean sea surface temperature and surface wind stress anomalies, from which the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) signal is removed. Results show that the first mode of the CMCA represents an east–west contrast pattern in SST and a monopole pattern in the zonal wind stress centered at the equatorial central Indian Ocean. The corresponding expansion coefficients are completely uncorrelated with the ENSO index. On the other hand, in the normal MCA, the expansion coefficients are correlated with both the ENSO index and the Indian Ocean east–west contrast pattern index. Thus, the CMCA method effectively detected the coherent patterns induced by the local air–sea interaction without the ENSO signal considered as an external factor, whereas the normal MCA detected the coherent patterns, but the effects of local and external factors cannot be separated.

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Soon-Il An

Abstract

Using ocean data assimilation products, variability of eastern Pacific Ocean tropical instability waves (TIWs) and their interaction with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) were analyzed. TIWs are known to heat the cold tongue through horizontal advection. Conversely, variability of the cold tongue influences TIW variability (TIWV). During La Niña, TIWs are more active and contribute to anomalous warming. During El Niño, TIWs are suppressed and induce an anomalous cooling. TIWV thus acts as negative feedback to ENSO. Interestingly, this feedback is stronger during La Niña than during El Niño. To investigate this negative/asymmetric feedback, a simple parameterization for the horizontal thermal flux convergence due to TIWs was incorporated into a simple ENSO model. The model results suggested that asymmetric thermal heating associated with TIWs can explain the El Niño–La Niña asymmetry (with larger-amplitude El Niños).

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Soon-Il An

Abstract

The equatorial Pacific atmosphere responds differently to global warming in the Gill-type and Lindzen–Nigam models. Under an assumption of no change in the zonal sea surface temperature (SST) gradient in the Gill-type model, the Walker circulation is intensified in a warmer climate relative to current climatic conditions, while slightly weakened in the Lindzen–Nigam model. Furthermore, for more accurate derivation of the surface wind, the free atmosphere in the Gill-type model is combined with the atmospheric boundary layer. This modified Gill-type model actually produces weaker surface wind than the Gill-type model would, but the sensitivity of the Walker circulation to the warmer climate is similar to that obtained from the Gill-type model. These results may explain why the zonal gradient of equatorial Pacific SST during the twentieth century is observed to strengthen while the Walker circulation is not, even though they are dynamically linked.

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Soon-Il An and Bin Wang

Abstract

Conditional maximum covariance analysis is applied to investigate the coherent patterns between the tropical and North Pacific SST and the North Pacific 500-hPa geopotential height anomalies. Two leading modes are identified. One is an intrinsic midlatitude mode, the North Pacific (NP) mode, for which SST anomalies are mainly confined to the extratropical North Pacific. The other is a tropical ocean–atmosphere coupled mode, the ENSO mode, in which an ENSO-like SST pattern dominates the Tropics but extratropical SST anomalies are relatively weak.

The NP and ENSO modes exhibit distinct spatial and temporal characteristics. For the NP mode, atmospheric variation leads to changes in SST, while for the ENSO mode the opposite is true. The NP mode displays a persistence barrier during August–September whereas the ENSO mode has a March–April persistence barrier. The upper-tropospheric jet stream associated with the NP and ENSO mode intensifies, respectively, over the central North Pacific and the subtropical northeastern Pacific; consequently, the transient activities maximize in their corresponding jet exit regions. The expansion coefficients of the 500-hPa geopotential height associated with the two modes appear to be significantly correlated. However, by reducing the high-frequency part (e.g., shorter than the interannual time scale) in expansion coefficients, the correlation becomes insignificant, indicating that the significant correlation results from high-frequency signals that are unrelated to the corresponding SST variation. The results presented here suggest that the intrinsic coupled mode in the midlatitude North Pacific may be distinguished from the forced mode by remote ENSO, especially on the interannual time scale.

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Soon-Il An and Bin Wang

Abstract

The peaks of El Niño in the Cane–Zebiak (CZ) model tend to appear most frequently around November when the ocean Rossby waves, which were amplified during the previous unstable season (February–May), turn back to the eastern Pacific and when the local instability in the eastern Pacific is very weak. The peaks of La Niña in the CZ model occur most frequently in boreal summer, in contrast to the observed counterpart that usually occurs in boreal winter. Sensitivity experiments indicate that the phase locking of the La Niña to boreal summer is primarily caused by seasonal variations of the tropical convergence zone, which regulate convective heating through atmospheric convergence feedback. The observed thermocline and the wind anomalies in the western Pacific exhibit considerable seasonal variations. These were missed in the original CZ model. In a modified CZ model that includes the seasonal variations of the western Pacific wind anomalies and the basic-state thermocline depth, the peaks of La Niña preferably occur in boreal winter, suggesting that the seasonal variation of the western Pacific surface wind anomalies and the mean thermocline depth are critical factors for the phase locking of the mature La Niña to boreal winter. The mechanisms by which these factors affect ENSO phase locking are also discussed.

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Soon-Il An and Bin Wang

Abstract

In the late 1970s, the ENSO cycle exhibited frequency change. The oscillation period increased from 2–4 yr (high frequency) during 1962–75 to 4–6 yr (low frequency) during 1980–93. Observations suggest that this frequency change was accompanied by a significant change in the structure of the coupled ENSO mode. In comparison with the high-frequency regime, the structure of the coupled mode in the low-frequency regime shows three distinctive features during the warm phase of ENSO: the eastward shift of the westerly anomalies, the meridional expansion of the westerly anomalies, and the weaker intensity of the easterly anomalies in the eastern Pacific.

To test the robustness of the relationship between the oscillation period and the structure of the coupled mode, the authors designed empirical atmospheric models based on observations and coupled them with the ocean model of Zebiak and Cane. Numerical experiments demonstrate that the ENSO period is sensitive to changes in the wind anomaly pattern in a way much like the observed ENSO frequency–structure relation. The increase of the ENSO period after 1980 is mainly due to the eastward shift of the zonal wind stress with respect to the SST anomalies. Physical explanations of the dependence of ENSO frequency on the structure of the coupled mode are provided by diagnosing the relative contributions of the thermocline feedback and zonal advection feedback on ENSO evolution.

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Soon-Il An and In-Sik Kang

Abstract

The recharge oscillator paradigm for ENSO is further investigated by using a simple coupled model, which externally includes the equatorial wave dynamics represented by the Kelvin and gravest symmetric Rossby waves. To investigate the role of eddies in the Pacific basin–wide adjustment to the wind forcing, particularly at the western and eastern boundaries, the zonal mean and eddy parts are treated separately in the current model.

It is clearly demonstrated that the basin-wide adjustment of the tropical ocean is accomplished by the net mass transport induced by the meridional transport over the tropical ocean interior and the zonal fluxes at the boundaries. With a reasonable choice of the reflection coefficient, particularly at the western boundary, the meridional transport plays a bigger role than the zonal boundary flux and determines the sign of zonal-mean thermocline depth tendency, in a way that the discharge of equatorial mass in the warm phase and recharge in the cold phase serve as a phase transition mechanism of the coupled system. The meridional mass transport is induced mainly by a geostrophic current associated with the east–west slope of thermocline depth, established quickly by the wind forcing. Also discussed in this paper is the difference between the recharge oscillator and the delayed oscillator in explaining the phase transition mechanism of ENSO.

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Soon-Il An and Fei-Fei Jin

Abstract

El Niño events (warm) are often stronger than La Niña events (cold). This asymmetry is an intrinsic nonlinear characteristic of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. In order to measure the nonlinearity of ENSO, the maximum potential intensity (MPI) index and the nonlinear dynamic heating (NDH) of ENSO are proposed as qualitative and quantitative measures. The 1997/98 El Niño that was recorded as the strongest event in the past century and another strong El Niño event in 1982/83 nearly reached the MPI. During these superwarming events, the normal climatological conditions of the ocean and atmosphere were collapsed completely. The huge bursts of ENSO activity manifested in these events are attributable to the nonlinear dynamic processes.

Through a heat budget analysis of the ocean mixed layer it is found that throughout much of the ENSO episodes of 1982/83 and 1997/98, the NDH strengthened these warm events and weakened subsequent La Niña events. This led to the warm–cold asymmetry. It is also found that the eastward-propagating feature in these two El Niño events provided a favorable phase relationship between temperature and current that resulted in the strong nonlinear dynamical warming. For the westward-propagating El Niño events prior to the late 1970s (e.g., 1957/58 and 1972/73 ENSOs) the phase relationships between zonal temperature gradient and current and between the surface and subsurface temperature anomalies are unfavorable for nonlinear dynamic heating, and thereby the ENSO events are not strong.

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Soon-Il An and Fei-Fei Jin

Abstract

The vertical advection of anomalous subsurface temperature by the mean upwelling and the zonal advection of mean sea surface temperature (SST) by anomalous current are known to be essential for the equatorial SST anomaly associated with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). In the coupled model, these two processes are referred to as the thermocline feedback and the zonal advective feedback, respectively. Using a version of a recharge oscillator model for ENSO obtained from the stripped-down approximation of the Cane–Zebiak-type model, it is demonstrated that these two feedbacks, which are linked dynamically through the geostrophic approximation, tend constructively to contribute to the growth and phase transition of ENSO. However, these two feedbacks control the leading coupled mode in different ways. The thermocline feedback leads to a coupled mode through the merging of the damped SST mode and ocean adjustment mode, whereas the zonal advective feedback tends to destabilize the gravest ocean basin mode. With both of these feedbacks, the leading modes of the coupled model still can be traced back to these different origins under moderate changes in the model setup. The main consequence of these sensitivities is that the growth rate and frequency of the ENSO mode may be sensitive to slight changes in basic-state parameters, which control the strength of these feedbacks.

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Ali Belmadani, Boris Dewitte, and Soon-Il An

Abstract

The background state of the equatorial Pacific determines the prevalence of a “slow” recharge oscillator-type ENSO over a “fast” quasi-biennial surface-driven ENSO. The first is controlled to a large extent by the thermocline feedback, whereas the latter is related to enhanced zonal advective feedback. In this study, dynamical diagnostics are used to investigate the relative importance of these two feedbacks in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project and its relation with the differences in ENSO-like variability among the models. The focus is on the role of the mean oceanic surface circulation in controlling the relative weight of the two feedbacks.

By the means of an intermediate-type ocean model of the tropical Pacific “tuned” from the coupled general circulation model (CGCM) outputs, the contribution of the advection terms (vertical versus zonal) to the rate of SST change is estimated. A new finding is that biases in the advection terms are to a large extent related to the biases in the mean surface circulation. The latter are used to infer the dominant ENSO feedback for each CGCM. This allows for the classification of the CGCMs into three groups that account for the dominant feedback process of the ENSO cycle: horizontal advection (mainly in the western Pacific), vertical advection (mainly in the eastern Pacific), and the combination of both mechanisms.

Based on such classification, the analysis also reveals that the models exhibit distinctive behavior with respect to the characteristics of ENSO: for most models, an enhanced (diminished) contribution of the zonal advective feedback is associated with faster (slower) ENSO and a tendency toward a cooler (warmer) mean state in the western-to-central Pacific Ocean. The results support the interpretation that biases in the mean state are sustained/maintained by the privileged mode of variability associated with the dominant feedback mechanism in the models. In particular, the models having a dominant zonal advective feedback exhibit significant cold SST asymmetry (or negative skewness) in the western equatorial Pacific.

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