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Gen Li, Shang-Ping Xie, and Yan Du

Abstract

An open-ocean thermocline dome south of the equator is a striking feature of the Indian Ocean (IO) as a result of equatorial westerly winds. Over the thermocline dome, the El Niño–forced Rossby waves help sustain the IO basin (IOB) mode and offer climate predictability for the IO and surrounding countries. This study shows that a common equatorial easterly wind bias, by forcing a westward-propagating downwelling Rossby wave in the southern IO, induces too deep a thermocline dome over the southwestern IO (SWIO) in state-of-the-art climate models. Such a deep SWIO thermocline weakens the influence of subsurface variability on sea surface temperature (SST), reducing the IOB amplitude and possibly limiting the models’ skill of regional climate prediction. To the extent that the equatorial easterly wind bias originates from errors of the South Asian summer monsoon, improving the monsoon simulation can lead to substantial improvements in simulating and predicting interannual variability in the IO.

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Gen Li, Shang-Ping Xie, and Yan Du

Abstract

Long-standing biases of climate models limit the skills of climate prediction and projection. Overlooked are tropical Indian Ocean (IO) errors. Based on the phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) multimodel ensemble, the present study identifies a common error pattern in climate models that resembles the IO dipole (IOD) mode of interannual variability in nature, with a strong equatorial easterly wind bias during boreal autumn accompanied by physically consistent biases in precipitation, sea surface temperature (SST), and subsurface ocean temperature. The analyses show that such IOD-like biases can be traced back to errors in the South Asian summer monsoon. A southwest summer monsoon that is too weak over the Arabian Sea generates a warm SST bias over the western equatorial IO. In boreal autumn, Bjerknes feedback helps amplify the error into an IOD-like bias pattern in wind, precipitation, SST, and subsurface ocean temperature. Such mean state biases result in an interannual IOD variability that is too strong. Most models project an IOD-like future change for the boreal autumn mean state in the global warming scenario, which would result in more frequent occurrences of extreme positive IOD events in the future with important consequences to Indonesia and East Africa. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) characterizes this future IOD-like projection in the mean state as robust based on consistency among models, but the authors’ results cast doubts on this conclusion since models with larger IOD amplitude biases tend to produce stronger IOD-like projected changes in the future.

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Yan Du, Lei Yang, and Shang-Ping Xie

Abstract

In the summer following a strong El Niño, tropical cyclone (TC) number decreases over the Northwest (NW) Pacific despite little change in local sea surface temperature. The authors’ analysis suggests El Niño–induced tropical Indian Ocean (TIO) warming as the cause. The TIO warming forces a warm tropospheric Kelvin wave that propagates into the western Pacific. Inducing surface divergence off the equator, the tropospheric Kelvin wave suppresses convection and induces an anomalous anticyclone over the NW Pacific, both anomalies unfavorable for TCs. The westerly vertical shear associated with the warm Kelvin wave reduces the magnitude of vertical shear in the South China Sea and strengthens it in the NW Pacific, an east–west variation that causes TC activity to increase and decrease in respective regions. These results help improve seasonal TC prediction.

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Gen Li, Shang-Ping Xie, and Yan Du

Abstract

Climate models consistently project reduced surface warming over the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean (IO) under increased greenhouse gas (GHG) forcing. This IO dipole (IOD)-like warming pattern, regarded as robust based on consistency among models by the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, results in a large increase in the frequency of extreme positive IOD (pIOD) events, elevating the risk of climate and weather disasters in the future over IO rim countries. These projections, however, do not consider large model biases in both the mean state and interannual IOD variance. In particular, a “present–future relationship” is identified between the historical simulations and representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 experiments from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) multimodel ensemble: models with an excessive IOD amplitude bias tend to project a strong IOD-like warming pattern in the mean and a large increase in extreme pIOD occurrences under increased GHG forcing. This relationship links the present simulation errors to future climate projections, and is also consistent with our understanding of Bjerknes ocean–atmosphere feedback. This study calibrates regional climate projections by using this present–future relationship and observed IOD amplitude. The results show that the projected IOD-like pattern of mean changes and frequency increase of extreme pIOD events are largely artifacts of model errors and unlikely to emerge in the future. These results illustrate that a robust projection may still be biased and it is important to consider the model bias effect.

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Yali Yang, Shang-Ping Xie, Yan Du, and Hiroki Tokinaga

Abstract

The correlation between sea surface temperature (SST) and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) persists into post-ENSO September over the South China Sea (SCS), the longest correlation in the World Ocean. Slow modulations of this correlation are analyzed by using the International Comprehensive Ocean–Atmosphere Dataset (ICOADS). ENSO’s influence on SCS SST has experienced significant interdecadal changes over the past 138 years (1870–2007), with a double-peak structure correlation after the 1960s compared to a single-peak before the 1940s. According to the ENSO correlation character, the analysis period is divided into four epochs. In epoch 3, 1960–83, the SST warming and enhanced precipitation over the southeastern tropical Indian Ocean, rather than the Indian Ocean basinwide warming, induce easterly wind anomalies and warm up the SCS in the summer following El Niño. Besides the Indian Ocean effect, during epochs 2 (1930–40) and 4 (1984–2007), the Pacific–Japan (PJ) pattern of atmospheric circulation anomalies helps sustain the SCS SST warming through summer (June–August) with easterly wind anomalies. The associated increase in shortwave radiation and decrease in upward latent heat flux cause the SCS SST warming to persist into the summer. Meanwhile, the rainfall response around the SCS to ENSO shows interdecadal variability, with stronger variability after the 1980s. The results suggest that both the remote forcing from the tropical Indian Ocean and the PJ pattern are important for the ENSO teleconnection to the SCS and its interdecadal modulations.

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Xuhua Cheng, Shang-Ping Xie, Hiroki Tokinaga, and Yan Du

Abstract

Interannual variability of high-wind occurrence over the North Atlantic is investigated based on observations from the satellite-borne Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I). Despite no wind direction being included, SSM/I data capture major features of high-wind frequency (HWF) quite well. Climatology maps show that HWF is highest in winter and is close to zero in summer. Remarkable interannual variability of HWF is found in the vicinity of the Gulf Stream, over open sea south of Iceland, and off Cape Farewell, Greenland. On interannual scales, HWF south of Iceland has a significant positive correlation with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). An increase in the mean westerlies and storm-track intensity during a positive NAO event cause HWF to increase in this region. In the vicinity of the Gulf Stream, HWF is significantly correlated with the difference between sea surface temperature and surface air temperature (SST − SAT), indicative of the importance of atmospheric instability. Cross-frontal wind and an SST gradient are important for the instability of the marine atmospheric boundary layer on the warm flank of the SST front. Off Cape Farewell, high wind occurs in both westerly and easterly tip jets. Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) data show that variability in westerly (easterly) HWF off Cape Farewell is positively (negatively) correlated with the NAO.

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Yan Du, Shang-Ping Xie, Gang Huang, and Kaiming Hu

Abstract

El Niño induces a basin-wide increase in tropical Indian Ocean (TIO) sea surface temperature (SST) with a lag of one season. The north IO (NIO), in particular, displays a peculiar double-peak warming with the second peak larger in magnitude and persisting well through the summer. Motivated by recent studies suggesting the importance of the TIO warming for the Northwest Pacific and East Asian summer monsoons, the present study investigates the mechanisms for the second peak of the NIO warming using observations and general circulation models. This analysis reveals that internal air–sea interaction within the TIO is key to sustaining the TIO warming through summer. During El Niño, anticyclonic wind curl anomalies force a downwelling Rossby wave in the south TIO through Walker circulation adjustments, causing a sustained SST warming in the tropical southwest IO (SWIO) where the mean thermocline is shallow. During the spring and early summer following El Niño, this SWIO warming sustains an antisymmetric pattern of atmospheric anomalies with northeasterly (northwesterly) wind anomalies north (south) of the equator. Over the NIO as the mean winds turn into southwesterly in May, the northeasterly anomalies force the second SST peak that persists through summer by reducing the wind speed and surface evaporation. Atmospheric general circulation model experiments show that the antisymmetric atmospheric pattern is a response to the TIO warming, suggestive of their mutual interaction. Thus, ocean dynamics and Rossby waves in particular are important for the warming not only locally in SWIO but also on the basin-scale north of the equator, a result with important implications for climate predictability and prediction.

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Hai Wang, Shang-Ping Xie, Yu Kosaka, Qinyu Liu, and Yan Du

Abstract

Anthropogenic aerosols partially mask the greenhouse warming and cause the reduction in Asian summer monsoon precipitation and circulation. By decomposing the atmospheric change into the direct atmospheric response to radiative forcing and sea surface temperature (SST)-mediated change, the physical mechanisms for anthropogenic-aerosol-induced changes in the East Asian summer monsoon (EASM) and South Asian summer monsoon (SASM) are diagnosed. Using coupled and atmospheric general circulation models, this study shows that the aerosol-induced troposphere cooling over Asian land regions generates anomalous sinking motion between 20° and 40°N and weakens the EASM north of 20°N without SST change. The decreased EASM precipitation and the attendant wind changes are largely due to this direct atmospheric response to radiative forcing, although the aerosol-induced North Pacific SST cooling also contributes. The SST-mediated change dominates the aerosol-induced SASM response, with contributions from both the north–south interhemispheric SST gradient and the local SST cooling pattern over the tropical Indian Ocean. Specifically, with large meridional gradient, the zonal-mean SST cooling pattern is most important for the Asian summer monsoon response to anthropogenic aerosol forcing, resulting in a reorganization of the regional meridional atmospheric overturning circulation. While uncertainty in aerosol radiative forcing has been emphasized in the literature, our results show that the intermodel spread is as large in the SST effect on summer monsoon rainfall, calling for more research into the ocean–atmosphere coupling.

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Shang-Ping Xie, Yan Du, Gang Huang, Xiao-Tong Zheng, Hiroki Tokinaga, Kaiming Hu, and Qinyu Liu

Abstract

El Niño’s influence on the subtropical northwest (NW) Pacific climate increased after the climate regime shift of the 1970s. This is manifested in well-organized atmospheric anomalies of suppressed convection and a surface anticyclone during the summer (June–August) of the El Niño decay year [JJA(1)], a season when equatorial Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies have dissipated. In situ observations and ocean–atmospheric reanalyses are used to investigate mechanisms for the interdecadal change. During JJA(1), the influence of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on the NW Pacific is indirect, being mediated by SST conditions over the tropical Indian Ocean (TIO). The results here show that interdecadal change in this influence is due to changes in the TIO response to ENSO.

During the postregime shift epoch, the El Niño teleconnection excites downwelling Rossby waves in the south TIO by anticyclonic wind curls. These Rossby waves propagate slowly westward, causing persistent SST warming over the thermocline ridge in the southwest TIO. The ocean warming induces an antisymmetric wind pattern across the equator, and the anomalous northeasterlies cause the north Indian Ocean to warm through JJA(1) by reducing the southwesterly monsoon winds. The TIO warming excites a warm Kelvin wave in tropospheric temperature, resulting in robust atmospheric anomalies over the NW Pacific that include the surface anticyclone. During the preregime shift epoch, ENSO is significantly weaker in variance and decays earlier than during the recent epoch. Compared to the epoch after the mid-1970s, SST and wind anomalies over the TIO are similar during the developing and mature phases of ENSO but are very weak during the decay phase. Specifically, the southern TIO Rossby waves are weaker, so are the antisymmetric wind pattern and the North Indian Ocean warming during JJA(1). Without the anchor in the TIO warming, atmospheric anomalies over the NW Pacific fail to develop during JJA(1) prior to the mid-1970s. The relationship of the interdecadal change to global warming and implications for the East Asian summer monsoon are discussed.

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Qiwei Sun, Yan Du, Shang-Ping Xie, Yuhong Zhang, Minyang Wang, and Yu Kosaka

Abstract

Using an eastern tropical Pacific pacemaker experiment called the Pacific Ocean–Global Atmosphere (POGA) run, this study investigated the internal variability in sea surface salinity (SSS) and its impacts on the assessment of long-term trends. By constraining the eastern tropical Pacific sea surface temperature variability with observations, the POGA experiment successfully simulated the observed variability of SSS. The long-term trend in POGA SSS shows a general pattern of salty regions becoming saltier (e.g., the northern Atlantic) and fresh regions becoming fresher, which agrees with previous studies. The 1950–2012 long-term trend in SSS is modulated by the internal variability associated with the interdecadal Pacific oscillation (IPO). Due to this variability, there are some regional discrepancies in the SSS 1950–2012 long-term change between POGA and the free-running simulation forced with historical radiative forcing, especially for the western tropical Pacific and southeastern Indian Ocean. Our analysis shows that the tropical Pacific cooling and intensified Walker circulation caused the SSS to increase in the western tropical Pacific and decrease in the southeastern Indian Ocean during the 20-yr period of 1993–2012. This decadal variability has led to large uncertainties in the estimation of radiative-forced trends on a regional scale. For the 63-yr period of 1950–2012, the IPO caused an offset of ~40% in the radiative-forced SSS trend in the western tropical Pacific and ~170% enhancement in the trend in the southeastern Indian Ocean. Understanding and quantifying the contribution of internal variability to SSS trends helps improve the skill for estimates and prediction of salinity/water cycle changes.

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