The Seasonal Cycle over the Tropical Pacific in Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere General Circulation Models

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
  • 2 Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California
  • 3 Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Meteorological Office, Bracknell, United Kingdom
  • 4 LODYC, Universite de Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France
  • 5 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
  • 6 Center for Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Studies, Calverton, Maryland
  • 7 Max Planck Institut für Meteorologie, Hamburg, Germany
  • 8 Laboratoire de Meteorologie Dynamique du CNRS, Paris, France
  • 9 Tokyo Institute of Technology, Ookayama, Meguro, Tokyo, Japan
  • 10 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, New Jersey
  • 11 NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • 12 European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, United Kingdom
  • 13 CERFACS, Toulouse, France
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Abstract

The seasonal cycle over the tropical Pacific simulated by 11 coupled ocean–atmosphere general circulation models (GCMs) is examined. Each model consists of a high-resolution ocean GCM of either the tropical Pacific or near-global means coupled to a moderate- or high-resolution atmospheric GCM, without the use of flux correction. The seasonal behavior of sea surface temperature (SST) and eastern Pacific rainfall is presented for each model.

The results show that current state-of-the-art coupled GCMs share important successes and troublesome systematic errors. All 11 models are able to simulate the mean zonal gradient in SST at the equator over the central Pacific. The simulated equatorial cold tongue generally tends to be too strong, too narrow, and extend too far west. SSTs are generally too warm in a broad region west of Peru and in a band near 10°S. This is accompanied in some models by a double intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) straddling the equator over the eastern Pacific, and in others by an ITCZ that migrates across the equator with the seasons; neither behavior is realistic. There is considerable spread in the simulated seasonal cycles of equatorial SST in the eastern Pacific. Some simulations do capture the annual harmonic quite realistically, although the seasonal cold tongue tends to appear prematurely. Others overestimate the amplitude of the semiannual harmonic. Nonetheless, the results constitute a marked improvement over the simulations of only a few years ago when serious climate drift was still widespread and simulated zonal gradients of SST along the equator were often very weak.

Abstract

The seasonal cycle over the tropical Pacific simulated by 11 coupled ocean–atmosphere general circulation models (GCMs) is examined. Each model consists of a high-resolution ocean GCM of either the tropical Pacific or near-global means coupled to a moderate- or high-resolution atmospheric GCM, without the use of flux correction. The seasonal behavior of sea surface temperature (SST) and eastern Pacific rainfall is presented for each model.

The results show that current state-of-the-art coupled GCMs share important successes and troublesome systematic errors. All 11 models are able to simulate the mean zonal gradient in SST at the equator over the central Pacific. The simulated equatorial cold tongue generally tends to be too strong, too narrow, and extend too far west. SSTs are generally too warm in a broad region west of Peru and in a band near 10°S. This is accompanied in some models by a double intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) straddling the equator over the eastern Pacific, and in others by an ITCZ that migrates across the equator with the seasons; neither behavior is realistic. There is considerable spread in the simulated seasonal cycles of equatorial SST in the eastern Pacific. Some simulations do capture the annual harmonic quite realistically, although the seasonal cold tongue tends to appear prematurely. Others overestimate the amplitude of the semiannual harmonic. Nonetheless, the results constitute a marked improvement over the simulations of only a few years ago when serious climate drift was still widespread and simulated zonal gradients of SST along the equator were often very weak.

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