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ENSO and ENSO-related Predictability. Part I: Prediction of Equatorial Pacific Sea Surface Temperature with a Hybrid Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Model

T. P. BarnettClimate Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. University of California

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N. GrahamClimate Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. University of California

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S. PazanClimate Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. University of California

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W. WhiteClimate Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. University of California

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M. LatifMax-Planck-Institut flair Meteorologie, Hamburg, Germany

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M. FlügelMax-Planck-Institut flair Meteorologie, Hamburg, Germany

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Abstract

A hybrid coupled model (HCM) of the tropical ocean–atmosphere system is described. The ocean component is a fully nonlinear ocean general circulation model (OGCM). The atmospheric element is a statistical model that specifies wind stress from ocean-model sea surface temperatures (SST). The coupled model demonstrates a chaotic behavior during extended integration that is related to slow changes in the background mean state of the ocean. The HCM also reproduces many of the observed variations in the tropical Pacific ocean-atmosphere system.

The physical processes operative in the model together describe a natural mode of climate variability in the tropical Pacific ocean–atmosphere system. The mode is composed of (i) westward-propagating Rossby waves and (ii) an equatorially confined air–sea element that propagates eastward. Additional results showed that the seasonal dependence of the anomalous ocean–atmosphere coupling was vital to the model's ability to both replicate and forecast key features of the tropical Pacific climate system.

A series of hindcast and forecast experiments was conducted with the model. It showed real skill in forecasting fall/winter tropical Pacific SST at a lead time of up to 18 months. This skill was largely confined to the central equatorial Pacific, just the region that is most prominent in teleconnections with the Northern Hemisphere during winter. This result suggests the model forecasts of winter SST at leads times of at least 6 months are good enough to be used with atmospheric models (statistical or OGCM) to attempt long-range winter forecasts for the North American continent. This suggestion is confirmed in Part II of this paper.

Abstract

A hybrid coupled model (HCM) of the tropical ocean–atmosphere system is described. The ocean component is a fully nonlinear ocean general circulation model (OGCM). The atmospheric element is a statistical model that specifies wind stress from ocean-model sea surface temperatures (SST). The coupled model demonstrates a chaotic behavior during extended integration that is related to slow changes in the background mean state of the ocean. The HCM also reproduces many of the observed variations in the tropical Pacific ocean-atmosphere system.

The physical processes operative in the model together describe a natural mode of climate variability in the tropical Pacific ocean–atmosphere system. The mode is composed of (i) westward-propagating Rossby waves and (ii) an equatorially confined air–sea element that propagates eastward. Additional results showed that the seasonal dependence of the anomalous ocean–atmosphere coupling was vital to the model's ability to both replicate and forecast key features of the tropical Pacific climate system.

A series of hindcast and forecast experiments was conducted with the model. It showed real skill in forecasting fall/winter tropical Pacific SST at a lead time of up to 18 months. This skill was largely confined to the central equatorial Pacific, just the region that is most prominent in teleconnections with the Northern Hemisphere during winter. This result suggests the model forecasts of winter SST at leads times of at least 6 months are good enough to be used with atmospheric models (statistical or OGCM) to attempt long-range winter forecasts for the North American continent. This suggestion is confirmed in Part II of this paper.

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