Impact of tropical SSTs in the North Atlantic and Southeastern Pacific on the Eastern Pacific ITCZ

Song, FF, Zhang GJ.  2017.  Impact of tropical SSTs in the North Atlantic and Southeastern Pacific on the Eastern Pacific ITCZ. Journal of Climate. 30:1291-1305.

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bias, boundary-layer, convergence, coupled ocean, general-circulation models, low-level cloud, parameterization, precipitation, sea-surface temperature, seasonal cycle, winds


During boreal spring, observations show a double ITCZ over the eastern Pacific, with the northern ITCZ stronger than the southern ITCZ. However, it is opposite in most climate models. It is also evident that there exists a cold bias in tropical North Atlantic (TNA) sea surface temperature (SST) and a warm bias in southeastern Pacific (SEP) SST. In this study, the influences of TNA and SEP SSTs on the double-ITCZ bias are investigated by prescribing the observed SST in these regions in the NCAR CESM1. Results show that when TNA SST is prescribed, the northern ITCZ is substantially enhanced and the southern ITCZ is moderately reduced, although the SST response in these regions is small. When the SEP SST is prescribed, the southern ITCZ is reduced considerably. When bothTNAand SEP SSTs are prescribed, the double-ITCZ bias is reduced by similar to 68%. Moisture budget analysis suggests that dynamics, mainly the low-level convergence change, determines the above precipitation changes. Based on a mixed layer model, changes in low-level convergence are shown to be determined by surface pressure P-s changes. With prescribed TNA/SEP SSTs, SST gradients change the P-s in the region directly via the Lindzen-Nigam mechanism. The corresponding low-level circulation changes affect the 850-hPa thermodynamic state in a wider region, which in turn not only strengthens the SST-induced P-s change locally but also leads to P-s changes remotely, including the northern ITCZ region. Furthermore, the low-level convergence changes the vertical structure of moist static energy, altering the atmospheric stability and modulating precipitation distribution.