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  1. Observations of Coupling between Surface Wind Stress and Sea Surface Temperature in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Authors: Dudley B. Chelton, Steven K. Esbensen, Michael G. Schlax, Nicolai Thum and Michael H. Freilich First Published: December 27th, 1999 Published on line: April 1st, 2001 Abstract: Satellite measurements of surface wind stress from the QuikSCAT scatterometer and sea surface temperature (SST) from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Microwave Imager are analyzed for the three-month period 21 July–20 October 1999 to investigate ocean–atmosphere coupling in the eastern tropical Pacific. Oceanic tropical instability waves (TIWs) with periods of 20–40 days and wavelengths of 1000–2000 km perturb the SST fronts that bracket both sides of the equatorial cold tongue, which is centered near 1°S to the east of 130°W. These perturbations are characterized by cusp-shaped features that propagate systematically westward on both sides of the equator. The space–time structures of these SST perturbations are reproduced with remarkable detail in the surface wind stress field. The wind stress divergence is shown to be linearly related to the downwind component of the SST gradient with a response on the south side of the cold tongue that is about twice that on the north side. The wind stress curl is linearly related to the crosswind component of the SST gradient with a response that is approximately half that of the wind stress divergence response to the downwind SST gradient. The perturbed SST and wind stress fields propagate synchronously westward with the TIWs. This close coupling between SST and wind stress supports the Wallace et al. hypothesis that surface winds vary in response to SST modification of atmospheric boundary layer stability. Link to full paper:<1479%3AOOCBSW>2.0.CO%3B2
  2. Fast and Slow Components of the Extratropical Atmospheric Circulation Response to CO2 Forcing Authors: Paulo Ceppi, Giuseppe Zappa, Theodore G. Shepherd and Jonathan M. Gregory First Published: September 15th, 2017 Published on line: January 19th, 2018 Abstract: Poleward shifts of the extratropical atmospheric circulation are a common response to CO2 forcing in global climate models (GCMs), but little is known about the time dependence of this response. Here it is shown that in coupled climate models, the long-term evolution of sea surface temperatures (SSTs) induces two distinct time scales of circulation response to steplike CO2 forcing. In most GCMs from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project as well as in the multimodel mean, all of the poleward shift of the midlatitude jets and Hadley cell edge occurs in a fast response within 5–10 years of the forcing, during which less than half of the expected equilibrium warming is realized. Compared with this fast response, the slow response over subsequent decades to centuries features stronger polar amplification (especially in the Antarctic), enhanced warming in the Southern Ocean, an El Niño–like pattern of tropical Pacific warming, and weaker land–sea contrast. Atmosphere-only GCM experiments demonstrate that the SST evolution drives the difference between the fast and slow circulation responses, although the direct radiative effect of CO2 also contributes to the fast response. It is further shown that the fast and slow responses determine the long-term evolution of the circulation response to warming in the representative concentration pathway 4.5 (RCP4.5) scenario. The results imply that shifts in midlatitude circulation generally scale with the radiative forcing, rather than with global-mean temperature change. A corollary is that time slices taken from a transient simulation at a given level of warming will considerably overestimate the extratropical circulation response in a stabilized climate. Link to Paper:
  3. Relationship between Tropical Pacific SST and global atmospheric angular momentum in coupled models Authors: Huei−Ping Huang, Matthew Newman, Richard Seager, Yochanan Kushnir and Participating CMIP2+ Modeling Groups First Published: January 2004 Abstract: The sensitivity parameter S1 = ∆AAM/∆SST, where ∆AAM and ∆SST represent the anomalies of global atmospheric angular momentum (AAM) and tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) in the NINO3.4 region, is compared for the CMIP2+ coupled models. The parameter quantifies the strength of atmospheric zonal mean zonal wind response to SST anomaly in the equatorial Pacific, an important process for the climate system. Although the simulated ∆AAM and ∆SST are found to exhibit great disparity, their ratios agree better among the coupled models (and with observation) with no significant outliers. This indicates that the processes that connect the AAM anomaly to tropical SST anomaly are not sensitive to the base SST and the detail of convective heating and are relatively easy to reproduce by the coupled models. Through this robust ∆SST−∆AAM relationship, the model bias in tropical Pacific SST manifests itself in the bias in atmospheric angular momentum. The value of S1 for an atmospheric model forced by observed SST is close to that for a coupled model with a similar atmospheric component, suggesting that the ∆SST− ∆AAM relationship is dominated by a one−way influence of the former forcing the latter. The physical basis for the ∆SST−∆AAM relationship is explored using a statistical equilibrium argument that links ∆SST to the anomaly of tropical tropospheric temperature. The resulting meridional gradient of tropospheric temperature is then linked to the change in zonal wind in the subtropical jets, the main contributor to ∆AAM, by thermal wind balance. Link to Paper: Credit goes to Tom @Isotherm for finding this paper - thank you.
  4. Interaction Between the Indian Ocean Dipole and ENSO Associated with Ocean Subsurface Variability - Presentation A workshop presentation at NOAA's 41st Climate Diagnostics and Prediction Workshop, held in Orono, Maine, from 3rd to 6th October, 2016 Presenters: Hui Wang, Arun Kumar and Raghu Murtugudde Presentation Date: 4th October, 2016 Introduction: The Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) is an intrinsic coupled mode of variability in the tropical Indian Ocean. It has broad impacts on regional climate. An IOD index is defined as the difference between sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies averaged over the western Indian Ocean (WIO, 50°–70°E, 10°S– 10°N) and eastern Indian Ocean (EIO, 90°– 110°E, 10°S–Eq.). An important issue in the studies of IOD is the relationship between IOD and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the potential feedbacks from each other. Previous studies have shown that the development of IOD can be independent of ENSO, but ENSO may exert significant influence. In recent years, it has also been found that IOD can affect ENSO. Clearly, there exists an intimate interaction between IOD and ENSO but the detailed phenology of their mutual evolution has not been reported thus far. Although a positive (negative) IOD tends to co-occur with El Niño (La Niña), the spatialtemporal covariations of these two major climate modes have not been well documented. Our earlier modeling study (Wang et al. 2016) documented the time evolution of IOD and the associated ocean subsurface variability in the absence of ENSO. The current study is aimed at examining the time evolution of IOD in the presence of ENSO and characterizing the interaction between IOD and ENSO. The present work complements our previous analysis by looking at the spatial-temporal covariations between IOD and ENSO, identifying any leadlag relationships between them, and quantifying the influence of ENSO on IOD. This is done by analyzing a 500-year long fully coupled model simulation, which retains the ENSO variability (referred to as ENSO run hereafter), and comparing the results with a parallel 500-year simulation with the ENSO variability suppressed (daily SST nudged to its climatology in the tropical Pacific; referred to as no-ENSO run hereafter). The latter was analyzed in Wang et al. (2016) to characterize the spatial-temporal evolution of IOD in the absence of ENSO. The differences in the characteristics of IOD between the two simulations will indicate the impact of ENSO on IOD. Both simulations were conducted with the NCEP CFS version 1 coupled model. Link to workshop paper: Link to workshop presentation slides and charts: Link to workshop program:
  5. A real-time Global Warming Index Authors: Dr. K. Haustein, M. R. Allen, P. M. Forster, F. E. L. Otto, D. M. Mitchell, H. D. Matthews and D. J. Frame Published: 13th November, 2017 Abstract: We propose a simple real-time index of global human-induced warming and assess its robustness to uncertainties in climate forcing and short-term climate fluctuations. This index provides improved scientific context for temperature stabilisation targets and has the potential to decrease the volatility of climate policy. We quantify uncertainties arising from temperature observations, climate radiative forcings, internal variability and the model response. Our index and the associated rate of human-induced warming is compatible with a range of other more sophisticated methods to estimate the human contribution to observed global temperature change. Link to full paper:
  6. Nonlinearity of the combined warm ENSO and QBO effects on the Northern Hemisphere polar vortex in MAECHAM5 simulations Authors: Natalia Calvo, Marco A. Giorgetta, Ricardo Garcia‐Herrera and Elisa Manzini Published: 14th July, 2009 Abstract: The influence of the quasi‐biennial oscillation (QBO) on the Northern Hemisphere (NH) polar vortex response to warm El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events and the impact of the warm ENSO events on the QBO signal in the NH polar stratosphere have been analyzed using the Middle Atmosphere ECHAM5 model. The experiment setup was designed to include simulations of extended NH winter seasons for either strong easterly or strong westerly phases of the tropical QBO, forced with either sea surface temperatures (SSTs) from the strong ENSO event that occurred in 1997/1998 or with climatological SSTs. It has been found that the weakening and warming of the polar vortex associated with a warm ENSO are intensified at the end of the winter during both QBO phases. In addition, the westerly QBO phase delays the onset of the warm ENSO signal, while the easterly QBO phase advances it. Warm ENSO events also impact the extratropical signal of the QBO by intensifying (weakening) the QBO effects in early (late) winter. Therefore, it appears that during warm ENSO events the duration of QBO signal in the northern extratropics is shortened while its downward propagation accelerated. Our dynamical analysis has revealed that these results are due to changes in the background flow caused by the QBO combined with changes in the anomalous propagation and dissipation of extratropical waves generated by warm ENSO. In both cases, a nonlinear behavior in the response of the polar vortex is observed when both warm ENSO and the easterly phase of the QBO operate together. These results suggest that the Arctic polar vortex response to combined forcing factors, in our case warm ENSO and the QBO phenomena, is expected to be nonlinear also for other coexistent forcing factors able to affect the variability of the vortex in the stratosphere. Link to full paper:
  7. Stratospheric role in interdecadal changes of El Niño impacts over Europe Authors: B. Ayarzagüena, J. López-Parages, M. Iza, N. Calvo and B. Rodríguez-Fonseca Published: 2nd April, 2018 Abstract: The European precipitation response to El Niño (EN) has been found to present interdecadal changes, with alternated periods of important or negligible EN impact in late winter. These periods are associated with opposite phases of multi-decadal sea surface temperature (SST) variability, which modifies the tropospheric background and EN teleconnections. In addition, other studies have shown how SST anomalies in the equatorial Pacific, and in particular, the location of the largest anomalous SST, modulate the stratospheric response to EN. Nevertheless, the role of the stratosphere on the stationarity of EN response has not been investigated in detail so far. Using reanalysis data, we present a comprehensive study of EN teleconnections to Europe including the role of the ocean background and the stratosphere in the stationarity of the signal. The results reveal multidecadal variability in the location of EN-related SST anomalies that determines different teleconnections. In periods with relevant precipitation signal over Europe, the EN SST pattern resembles Eastern Pacific EN and the stratospheric pathway plays a key role in transmitting the signal to Europe in February, together with two tropospheric wavetrains that transmit the signal in February and April. Conversely, the stratospheric pathway is not detected in periods with a weak EN impact on European precipitation, corresponding to EN-related SST anomalies primarily located over the central Pacific. SST mean state and its associated atmospheric background control the location of EN-related SST anomalies in different periods and modulate the establishment of the aforementioned stratospheric pathway of EN teleconnection to Europe too. Link to full paper:
  8. Seasonal predictability of winter ENSO types in operational dynamical model predictions Authors: Hong-Li Ren, Adam A. Scaife, Nick Dunstone, Ben Tian, Ying Liu, Sarah Ineson, June-Yi Lee, Doug Smith, Changzheng Liu, Vikki Thompson, Michael Vellinga and Craig MacLachlan Published: 25th July, 2018 Abstract: The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events of recent decades have been divided into the two different types based on their spatial patterns, the Eastern Pacific (EP) type and Central Pacific (CP) type. Their most significant difference is the distinguished zonal center locations of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the equatorial Pacific. In this study, based on six operational climate models, we evaluate predictability of the two types of ENSO events in winter to examine whether dynamical predictions can distinguish between the two spatial patterns at lead time of 1 month and tell us more than simply whether an event is on the way. We show that winter EP and CP El Niño and La Niña events can only be distinguished in a minority of these models at 1-month lead, and the EP type tends to has a more realistic zonal positions of SST pattern centers than the CP type. Compared to the SST patterns, the differences between the two types are less apparent in precipitation especially for the two La Niña types in the models. Examinations of the extratropical teleconnections to the two ENSO types show that some of the models can reproduce the differences between EP and CP teleconnections. Evaluations of model predictions show that the EP El Niño event has the same level hit rate with the CP El Niño and the CP La Niña event has much higher hit rate than the EP La Niña. While the multi-model ensemble increases Niño index prediction skill, it does not help to improve forecast skill of center longitude index of the SST patterns and distinguish the two types of ENSO events. Although ENSO skill is very high at this lead time, the rapid loss of the initialized information on the different ENSO types in most of the models severely limits the predictability of the two types of winter ENSO events and more research is needed to improve the performance of climate models in forecasting the two ENSO types. Link to full paper:
  9. Effect of AMOC collapse on ENSO in a high resolution general circulation model Authors: Mark S. Williamson, Mat Collins, Sybren S. Drijfhout, Ron Kahana, Jennifer V. Mecking and Timothy M. Lenton Published: 17th June, 2017 Abstract: We look at changes in the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in a high-resolution eddy-permitting climate model experiment in which the Atlantic Meridional Circulation (AMOC) is switched off using freshwater hosing. The ENSO mode is shifted eastward and its period becomes longer and more regular when the AMOC is off. The eastward shift can be attributed to an anomalous eastern Ekman transport in the mean equatorial Pacific ocean state. Convergence of this transport deepens the thermocline in the eastern tropical Pacific and increases the temperature anomaly relaxation time, causing increased ENSO period. The anomalous Ekman transport is caused by a surface northerly wind anomaly in response to the meridional sea surface temperature dipole that results from switching the AMOC off. In contrast to a previous study with an earlier version of the model, which showed an increase in ENSO amplitude in an AMOC off experiment, here the amplitude remains the same as in the AMOC on control state. We attribute this difference to variations in the response of decreased stochastic forcing in the different models, which competes with the reduced damping of temperature anomalies. In the new high-resolution model, these effects approximately cancel resulting in no change in amplitude. Link to full paper: complexity.GRL-2018.pdf
  10. The Distinct Contributions of the Seasonal Footprinting and Charged‐Discharged Mechanisms to ENSO Complexity Authors: Jin‐Yi Yu and Shih‐Wei Fang Published: 28th June, 2018 Abstract: This study finds the seasonal footprinting (SF) mechanism to be a key source of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) complexity, whereas the charged‐discharged (CD) mechanism acts to reduce complexity. The CD mechanism forces El Niño and La Niña to follow each other, resulting in a more cyclic and less complex ENSO evolution, while the SF mechanism involves subtropical forcing and results in an ENSO evolution that is more episodic and irregular. The SF mechanism also has a tendency to produce multiyear La Niña events but not multiyear El Niño events, contributing to El Niño‐La Niña asymmetries. The strength of CD mechanism has been steady, but SF mechanism has intensified during the past two decades, making ENSO more complicated. Most Climate Model Intercomparison Project version 5 models overestimate the strength of the CD mechanism but underestimate the strength of the SF mechanism, causing their simulated ENSOs to be too regular and symmetric. Plain Language Summary El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is known to have profound climate impacts worldwide, but the causes of its complex behaviors are still not fully understood. In this study, we show that the subtropical atmosphere‐ocean coupled forcing is a key source of ENSO complexity, whereas the tropical ocean heat content variation acts to reduce ENSO complexity. The subtropical forcing also has a tendency to produce multiyear La Niña events but not multiyear El Niño events, contributing to El Niño‐La Niña asymmetries. In contrast to the steady strength of the tropical variation throughout the past six decades, the strength of the subtropical forcing has increased since the early 1990s. This may have made ENSO more complex recently and, if this trend does not reverse, possibly into the coming decades. Contemporary climate models overestimate the strength of the tropical ocean heat content variation but underestimate the strength of the subtropical forcing, which may be a reason why contemporary models produce ENSO behavior that is too regular. Link to full paper: complexity.GRL-2018.pdf
  11. Linking Emergence of the Central Pacific El Niño to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation Authors: Jin-Yi Yu, Pei-ken Kao, Houk Paek, Huang-Hsiung Hsu, Chih-wen Hung, Mong-Ming Lu and Soon-Il An Published: 6th October, 2014 Abstract: The ocean–atmosphere coupling in the northeastern subtropical Pacific is dominated by a Pacific meridional mode (PMM), which spans between the extratropical and tropical Pacific and plays an important role in connecting extratropical climate variability to the occurrence of El Niño. Analyses of observational data and numerical model experiments were conducted to demonstrate that the PMM (and the subtropical Pacific coupling) experienced a rapid strengthening in the early 1990s and that this strengthening is related to an intensification of the subtropical Pacific high caused by a phase change of the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO). This PMM strengthening favored the development of more central Pacific (CP)-type El Niño events. The recent shift from more conventional eastern Pacific (EP) to more CP-type El Niño events can thus be at least partly understood as a Pacific Ocean response to a phase change in the AMO. Link to full paper:
  12. The impact of westerly wind bursts and ocean initial state on the development, and diversity of El Niño events Authors: Alexey V. Fedorov, Shineng Hu, Matthieu Lengaigne and Eric Guilyardi Published: 1st April, 2014 Abstract: Westerly wind bursts (WWBs) that occur in the western tropical Pacific are believed to play an important role in the development of El Niño events. Here, following the study of Lengaigne et al. (Clim Dyn 23(6):601–620, 2004), we conduct numerical simulations in which we reexamine the response of the climate system to an observed wind burst added to a coupled general circulation model. Two sets of twin ensemble experiments are conducted (each set has control and perturbed experiments). In the first set, the initial ocean heat content of the system is higher than the model climatology (recharged), while in the second set it is nearly normal (neutral). For the recharged state, in the absence of WWBs, a moderate El Niño with a maximum warming in the central Pacific (CP) develops in about a year. In contrast, for the neutral state, there develops a weak La Niña. However, when the WWB is imposed, the situation dramatically changes: the recharged state slides into an El Niño with a maximum warming in the eastern Pacific, while the neutral set produces a weak CP El Niño instead of previous La Niña conditions. The different response of the system to the exact same perturbations is controlled by the initial state of the ocean and the subsequent ocean–atmosphere interactions involving the interplay between the eastward shift of the warm pool and the warming of the eastern equatorial Pacific. Consequently, the observed diversity of El Niño, including the occurrence of extreme events, may depend on stochastic atmospheric processes, modulating El Niño properties within a broad continuum. Link to full paper:
  13. Timing of subsurface heat magnitude for the growth of El Niño events Authors: Joan Ballester, Desislava Petrova, Simona Bordoni, Ben Cash and Xavier Rodó Published: 3rd August, 2017 Abstract: The subsurface heat buildup in the western tropical Pacific and the recharge phase in equatorial heat content are intrinsic elements of El Niño–Southern Oscillation, leading to changes in zonal wind stress, sea surface temperature, and thermocline tilt that characterize the growing and mature phases of El Niño (EN) events. Here we use numerical simulations to study the impact on subsequent EN episodes of a sudden increase or decrease in ocean heat content during the recharge phase and compare results with previous studies in which this perturbation is prescribed earlier during the tilting mode. We found that while not substantially affected by the phase at which a sudden rise in heat content is prescribed, the timing and magnitude of the events are very sensitive to the phase at which a major decrease is imposed. The different response to the phase of increases and decreases substantiates the importance of nonlinear subsurface ocean dynamics to the onset and growth of EN episodes and provides insight into the irreversibility of the events at different stages of the oscillation. Link to full paper:
  14. Both air-sea components are crucial for El Niño forecast from boreal spring Authors: Xiang-Hui Fang and Mu Mu Published: 12th July, 2018 Abstract: The spring predictability barrier severely limits our ability to forecast the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) from and across the boreal spring. Our observational analysis shows that the spring predictability barrier (SPB) can be largely reduced when information from both the ocean and atmosphere are effectively taken into account during the boreal spring. The correlation coefficient between the predicted and observed sea surface temperature anomalies over the equatorial central–eastern Pacific determined by a simple quaternary linear regression model is >0.81 for the period 1980–2016. The frame structure of the ENSO evolution is mostly controlled by variations in the oceanic heat content along the equatorial Pacific and the zonal wind stress over the tropical western Pacific during the boreal spring. These results indicate that to predict ENSO events with a long lead time, i.e., largely reducing the SPB, variations in both the ocean and atmosphere during the boreal spring should be well predicted first. While the oceanic information is mainly located in the equatorial Pacific and well characterized by the delayed oscillator and recharging oscillator models, variations in the atmosphere may contain information beyond this area and are more difficult to deal with. Link to full paper:
  15. The South Pacific Meridional Mode: A Mechanism for ENSO-like Variability Authors: Honghai Zhang, Amy Clement and Pedro Di Nezio Published: 9th July, 2013 Abstract: In this study, the authors investigate the connection between the South Pacific atmospheric variability and the tropical Pacific climate in models of different degrees of coupling between the atmosphere and ocean. A robust mode of variability, defined as the South Pacific meridional mode (SPMM), is identified in a multimodel ensemble of climate model experiments where the atmosphere is only thermodynamically coupled to a slab ocean mixed layer. The physical interpretation of the SPMM is nearly identical to the North Pacific meridional mode (NPMM) with the off-equatorial southeast trade wind variability altering the latent heat flux and sea surface temperature (SST) and initiating a wind–evaporation–SST feedback that propagates signals into the tropics. The authors also show that a positive cloud feedback plays a role in the development of this mode, but this effect is model dependent. While physically analogous to the NPMM, the SPMM has a stronger expression in the equatorial Pacific and directly perturbs the zonal gradients of SST and sea level pressure (SLP) on the equator, thus leading to ENSO-like variability despite the lack of ocean–atmosphere dynamical coupling. Further analysis suggests that the SPMM is also active in fully coupled climate models and observations. This study highlights the important role of the Southern Hemisphere in tropical climate variability and suggests that including observations from the data-poor South Pacific could improve the ENSO predictability. Link to full paper:
  16. Bring Back 1962-63

    Revisiting the Pacific Meridional Mode

    Revisiting the Pacific Meridional Mode Authors: Malte F. Stuecker Published: 16th February, 2018 Abstract: Numerous studies demonstrated that the Pacific Meridional Mode (PMM) can excite Central Pacific (CP) El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events and that the PMM is mostly a stochastic phenomenon associated with mid-latitude atmospheric variability and wind-evaporation-SST feedback. Here we show that CP sea surface temperature (SST) variability exhibits high instantaneous correlations both on interannual (ENSO-related) and decadal (Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO)-related) timescales with the PMM. By prescribing an idealized interannual equatorial CP ENSO SST forcing in a partially-coupled atmosphere/slab ocean model we are able to generate a realistic instantaneous PMM response consistent with the observed statistical ENSO/PMM relationship. This means that CP ENSO and the PMM can excite each other respectively on interannual timescales, strongly suggesting that a fast positive feedback exists between the two phenomena. Thus, we argue that they cannot be considered two independent dynamical entities. Additionally, we show that the interannual CP ENSO SST forcing generates atmospheric circulation variability that projects strongly on the Aleutian Low and North Pacific SST anomalies that exhibit the characteristic PDO pattern. Link to full paper:
  17. Impact of the South and North Pacific Meridional Modes on ENSO: Observational Analysis and Comparison Authors: Qingye Min, Jingzhi Su and Renhe Zhang Published: 27th October, 2016 Abstract: An interannual variability mode in the southeast Pacific with a physical interpretation similar to that of the Pacific meridional mode (PMM) in the North Pacific was recently identified. Both modes have been shown to influence the subsequent development of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events. This study investigates the relationship between ENSO and the two PMMs using observational and reanalysis data. The results show that the South Pacific meridional mode (SPMM) mainly favors the development of sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs) in the eastern equatorial Pacific, whereas the North Pacific meridional mode (NPMM) mainly favors the development of SSTAs in the central equatorial Pacific. Both of the meridional modes are considered to be analogous in terms of their physical interpretation and can be important predictors of ENSO when considering different flavors of ENSO. Neither the NPMM nor the SPMM can be precluded as accurate indicators when forecasting particular flavors of ENSO. Link to full paper:
  18. Triggering of El Niño onset through trade wind–induced charging of the equatorial Pacific Authors: Bruce T. Anderson, Renellys C. Perez and Alicia Karspeck Published: 15th February, 2013 Abstract: Sea surface temperature variations over the equatorial Pacific associated with the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) produce changes in climates across the globe. Here we report evidence from observationally constrained ocean data for the initiation of warm ENSO events (El Niños) resulting from subsurface equatorial Pacific heat content increases related to tropical/extratropical sea level pressure (SLP) changes over the North Pacific. We hypothesize that the increase in heat content is a response to SLP‐generated variations in the North Pacific trade winds, which we term trade wind charging of the equatorial Pacific. Experiments using a high‐resolution numerical ocean model verify that the charging of subsurface heat content along the equatorial Pacific can be induced by SLP‐generated trade wind variations. Furthermore, analysis of the numerical model results and historical observations indicates that the trade wind–induced ocean heat content increases are sufficiently large to initiate the onset of El Niño events, which mature approximately 12 months after the trade wind forcing itself. Link to full paper:
  19. The role of South Pacific atmospheric variability in the development of different types of ENSO Authors: Yujia You and Jason C. Furtado Published: 5th July, 2017 Abstract: Recent advances in tropical Pacific climate variability have focused on understanding the development of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events, specifically the types or “flavors” of ENSO (i.e., central versus eastern Pacific events). While precursors to ENSO events exist, distinguishing the particular flavor of the expected ENSO event remains unresolved. This study offers a new look at ENSO predictability using South Pacific atmospheric variability during austral winter as an indicator. The positive phase of the leading mode of South Pacific sea level pressure variability, which we term the South Pacific Oscillation (SPO), exhibits a meridional dipole with with a(n) (anti)cyclonic anomaly dominating the subtropics (extratropics/high latitudes). Once energized, the cyclonic anomalies in the subtropical node of the SPO weaken the southeasterly trade winds and promote the charging of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, giving rise to eastern Pacific ENSO events. Indeed, the type of ENSO event can be determined accurately using only the magnitude and phase of the SPO during austral winter as a predictor (17 out of 23 cases). The SPO may also play a role in explaining the asymmetry of warm and cold events. Collectively, our findings present a new perspective on ENSO‐South Pacific interactions that can advance overall understanding of the ENSO system and enhance its predictability across multiple timescales. Link to full paper: Link to supplement:;file=grl56140-sup-0001-TextS1.pdf
  20. The Northern Hemisphere Extratropical Atmospheric Circulation Response to ENSO: How Well Do We Know It and How Do We Evaluate Models Accordingly? Authors: Clara Deser, Isla R. Simpson, Karen A. McKinnon and Adam S. Phillips Published: 14th March, 2017 Abstract: Application of random sampling techniques to composite differences between 18 El Niño and 14 La Niña events observed since 1920 reveals considerable uncertainty in both the pattern and amplitude of the Northern Hemisphere extratropical winter sea level pressure (SLP) response to ENSO. While the SLP responses over the North Pacific and North America are robust to sampling variability, their magnitudes can vary by a factor of 2; other regions, such as the Arctic, North Atlantic, and Europe are less robust in their SLP patterns, amplitudes, and statistical significance. The uncertainties on the observed ENSO composite are shown to arise mainly from atmospheric internal variability as opposed to ENSO diversity. These observational findings pose considerable challenges for the evaluation of ENSO teleconnections in models. An approach is proposed that incorporates both pattern and amplitude uncertainty in the observational target, allowing for discrimination between true model biases in the forced ENSO response and apparent model biases that arise from limited sampling of non-ENSO-related internal variability. Large initial-condition coupled model ensembles with realistic tropical Pacific sea surface temperature anomaly evolution during 1920–2013 show similar levels of uncertainty in their ENSO teleconnections as found in observations. Because the set of ENSO events in each of the model composites is the same (and identical to that in observations), these uncertainties are entirely attributable to sampling fluctuations arising from internal variability, which is shown to originate from atmospheric processes. The initial-condition model ensembles thus inform the interpretation of the single observed ENSO composite and vice versa. Link to full paper:
  21. Projected SSTs over 21st century: Changes in mean, variability & extremes for large marine ecosystem regions of Northern Oceans Authors: Michael A. Alexander (NOAA), James D. Scott, Kevin D. Friedland, Katherine E. Mills, Janet A. Nye, Andrew J. Pershing and Andrew C. Thomas Published: 26th January, 2018 Abstract: Global climate models were used to assess changes in the mean, variability and extreme sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in northern oceans with a focus on large marine ecosystems (LMEs) adjacent to North America, Europe, and the Arctic Ocean. Results were obtained from 26 models in the Community Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) archive and 30 simulations from the National Center for Atmospheric Research Large Ensemble Community Project (CESM-LENS). All of the simulations used the observed greenhouse gas concentrations for 1976–2005 and the RCP8.5 “business as usual” scenario for greenhouse gases through the remainder of the 21st century. In general, differences between models are substantially larger than among the simulations in the CESM-LENS, indicating that the SST changes are more strongly affected by model formulation than internal climate variability. The annual SST trends over 1976–2099 in the 18 LMEs examined here are all positive ranging from 0.05 to 0.5°C decade–1. SST changes by the end of the 21st century are primarily due to a positive shift in the mean with only modest changes in the variability in most LMEs, resulting in a substantial increase in warm extremes and decrease in cold extremes. The shift in the mean is so large that in many regions SSTs during 2070–2099 will always be warmer than the warmest year during 1976–2005. The SST trends are generally stronger in summer than in winter, as greenhouse gas heating is integrated over a much shallower climatological mixed layer depth in summer than in winter, which amplifies the seasonal cycle of SST over the 21stcentury. In the Arctic, the mean SST and its variability increases substantially during summer, when it is ice free, but not during winter when a thin layer of ice reforms and SSTs remain near the freezing point. Link to full paper: Link to a presentation of this paper (slides only): extra slides.pdf
  22. Revisiting the 26.5°C Sea Surface Temperature Threshold for Tropical Cyclone Development Authors: Ron McTaggart-Cowan, Emily L. Davies, Jonathan G. Fairman Jr., Thomas J. Galarneau Jr. and David M. Schultz Published: 4th November, 2014 Abstract: A high sea surface temperature is generally accepted to be one of the necessary ingredients for tropical cyclone development, indicative of the potential for surface heat and moisture fluxes capable of fueling a self-sustaining circulation. Although the minimum 26.5°C threshold for tropical cyclogenesis has become a mainstay in research and education, the fact that a nonnegligible fraction of storm formation events (about 5%) occur over cooler waters casts some doubt on the robustness of this estimate. Tropical cyclogenesis over subthreshold sea surface temperatures is associated with low tropopause heights, indicative of the presence of a cold trough aloft. To focus on this type of development environment, the applicability of the 26.5°C threshold is investigated for tropical transitions from baroclinic precursor disturbances in all basins between 1989 and 2013. Although the threshold performs well in the majority of cases without appreciable environmental baroclinicity, the potential for development is underestimated by up to 27% for systems undergoing tropical transition. An alternative criterion of a maximum 22.5°C difference between the tropopause-level and 850-hPa equivalent potential temperatures (defined as the coupling index) is proposed for this class of development. When combined with the standard 26.5°C sea surface temperature threshold for precursor-free environments, error rates are reduced to 3%–6% for all development types. The addition of this physically relevant representation of the deep-tropospheric state to the ingredients-based conceptual model for tropical cyclogenesis improves the representation of the important tropical transition-based subset of development events. Link to full paper: Link to supplement:
  23. Intraseasonal Tropical Cyclogenesis Prediction in a Global Coupled Model System Authors: Xianan Jiang, Baoqiang Xiang, Ming Zhao, Tim Li, Shian-Jiann Lin, Zhuo Wang and Jan-Huey Chen Published: 10th April, 2018 (published online; 10th July, 2018) Abstract: Motivated by increasing demand in the community for intraseasonal predictions of weather extremes, predictive skill of tropical cyclogenesis is investigated in this study based on a global coupled model system. Limited intraseasonal cyclogenesis prediction skill with a high false alarm rate is found when averaged over about 600 tropical cyclones (TCs) over global oceans from 2003 to 2013, particularly over the North Atlantic (NA). Relatively skillful genesis predictions with more than 1-week lead time are only evident for about 10% of the total TCs. Further analyses suggest that TCs with relatively higher genesis skill are closely associated with the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) and tropical synoptic waves, with their geneses strongly phase-locked to the convectively active region of the MJO and low-level cyclonic vorticity associated with synoptic-scale waves. Moreover, higher cyclogenesis prediction skill is found for TCs that formed during the enhanced periods of strong MJO episodes than those during weak or suppressed MJO periods. All these results confirm the critical role of the MJO and tropical synoptic waves for intraseasonal prediction of TC activity. Tropical cyclogenesis prediction skill in this coupled model is found to be closely associated with model predictability of several large-scale dynamical and thermodynamical fields. Particularly over the NA, higher predictability of low-level relative vorticity, midlevel humidity, and vertical zonal wind shear is evident along a tropical belt from the West Africa coast to the Caribbean Sea, in accord with more predictable cyclogenesis over this region. Over the extratropical NA, large-scale variables exhibit less predictability due to influences of extratropical systems, leading to poor cyclogenesis predictive skill. Link to full paper:
  24. Effect of remote sea surface temperature change on tropical cyclone potential intensity Authors: Gabriel A. Vecchi and Brian J. Soden (Nature volume 450, pages 1066–1070) Published: 13th December, 2007 Abstract: The response of tropical cyclone activity to global warming is widely debated. It is often assumed that warmer sea surface temperatures provide a more favourable environment for the development and intensification of tropical cyclones, but cyclone genesis and intensity are also affected by the vertical thermodynamic properties of the atmosphere. Here we use climate models and observational reconstructions to explore the relationship between changes in sea surface temperature and tropical cyclone ‘potential intensity’—a measure that provides an upper bound on cyclone intensity and can also reflect the likelihood of cyclone development. We find that changes in local sea surface temperature are inadequate for characterizing even the sign of changes in potential intensity, but that long-term changes in potential intensity are closely related to the regional structure of warming; regions that warm more than the tropical average are characterized by increased potential intensity, and vice versa. We use this relationship to reconstruct changes in potential intensity over the twentieth century from observational reconstructions of sea surface temperature. We find that, even though tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently at a historical high, Atlantic potential intensity probably peaked in the 1930s and 1950s, and recent values are near the historical average. Our results indicate that—per unit local sea surface temperature change—the response of tropical cyclone activity to natural climate variations, which tend to involve localized changes in sea surface temperature, may be larger than the response to the more uniform patterns of greenhouse-gas-induced warming. Link to full paper:;rep=rep1&amp;type=pdf
  25. Instabilities of Radiative Convective Equilibrium with an Interactive Surface - Presentation A presentation at the AMS 32nd Conference on “Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology” held at the Condado Plaza Hilton in Puerto Rico between 17th and 22nd April, 2016. Presenters: Tom Beucler, K. Emanuel Ali Asaadi, G. Brunet and P. M. K. Yau  Presentation Date: 18th April, 2016 Presentation Summary: Moist radiative-convective equilibrium (RCE) is the statistical equilibrium state the atmosphere would reach in the absence of lateral energy transport. It is arguably the simplest climatic equilibrium, where the vertically-integrated radiative cooling balances the convective heating. If the solar forcing is large enough, RCE can be unstable to water vapor perturbations, leading to a dry state with mean descent or a moist state with mean ascent. This instability is believed to correspond to the phenomenon of self aggregation of convection, where a convecting moist cluster surrounded by a broad region of dry subsiding air forms. The temperature perturbations of the surface play an important role in the organization of convection, through surface turbulent and radiative fluxes. However, it is very computationally intensive to run cloud resolving models and large eddy simulations of convection without artificially imposing a fixed surface temperature. This explains why the instabilities of RCE with an interactive surface remain an open problem. By using the MIT single column model and an idealized two-layers model of the atmosphere with a slab ocean, we are able to study the potential instabilities of the fully interactive system. We find that allowing for surface temperature perturbations adds a new air-sea potential instability to the purely atmospheric radiative-convective instability found by Emanuel et al. (2013). Furthermore, we are able to study the stability of the system for all values of solar forcing and surface heat capacities; we can then numerically compute the bifurcation diagram of the system. Finally, we show that the instability preferentially leads to a dry than a moist state, which helps explaining why self-aggregation of convection is observed to make the free-troposphere drier. Link to conference video presentation (14 minutes): Link to Manuscript: (pdf file via conference presentation summary) Link to full conference agenda: