Publications

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2018
Liu, W, Xie SP.  2018.  An ocean view of the global surface warming hiatus. Oceanography. 31:72-79.   10.5670/oceanog.2018.217   AbstractWebsite

The rate of global mean surface temperature increase slowed during 1998-2012. We review oceanic changes during this global warming hiatus from different but related perspectives. In one perspective, we explore the physical mechanisms for sea surface temperature patterns and highlight the role of natural variability, particularly the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) that both have chaotic/random phases. In the other perspective, we investigate how the hiatus relates to changes in energy fluxes at the top of the atmosphere and to the three-dimensional distribution of ocean heat content change on decadal timescales. We find that the recent surface warming hiatus is associated with a transition of the IPO from a positive to negative phase and with heat redistribution between the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans. The AMO has shifted to a positive phase since the late 1990s, inducing a La Nina-type response over the tropical Pacific via a tropic-wide teleconnection, contributing to the global warming hiatus.

Johnson, NC, Xie SP, Kosaka Y, Li XC.  2018.  Increasing occurrence of cold and warm extremes during the recent global warming slowdown. Nature Communications. 9   10.1038/s41467-018-04040-y   AbstractWebsite

The recent levelling of global mean temperatures after the late 1990s, the so-called global warming hiatus or slowdown, ignited a surge of scientific interest into natural global mean surface temperature variability, observed temperature biases, and climate communication, but many questions remain about how these findings relate to variations in more societally relevant temperature extremes. Here we show that both summertime warm and wintertime cold extreme occurrences increased over land during the so-called hiatus period, and that these increases occurred for distinct reasons. The increase in cold extremes is associated with an atmospheric circulation pattern resembling the warm Arctic-cold continents pattern, whereas the increase in warm extremes is tied to a pattern of sea surface temperatures resembling the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. These findings indicate that large-scale factors responsible for the most societally relevant temperature variations over continents are distinct from those of global mean surface temperature.

Collins, M, Minobe S, Barreiro M, Bordoni S, Kaspi Y, Kuwano-Yoshida A, Keenlyside N, Manzini E, O'Reilly CH, Sutton R, Xie SP, Zolina O.  2018.  Challenges and opportunities for improved understanding of regional climate dynamics. Nature Climate Change. 8:101-108.   10.1038/s41558-017-0059-8   AbstractWebsite

Dynamical processes in the atmosphere and ocean are central to determining the large-scale drivers of regional climate change, yet their predictive understanding is poor. Here, we identify three frontline challenges in climate dynamics where significant progress can be made to inform adaptation: response of storms, blocks and jet streams to external forcing; basin-to-basin and tropical-extratropical teleconnections; and the development of non-linear predictive theory. We highlight opportunities and techniques for making immediate progress in these areas, which critically involve the development of high-resolution coupled model simulations, partial coupling or pacemaker experiments, as well as the development and use of dynamical metrics and exploitation of hierarchies of models.

2015
Amaya, DJ, Xie SP, Miller AJ, McPhaden MJ.  2015.  Seasonality of tropical Pacific decadal trends associated with the 21st century global warming hiatus. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 120:6782-6798.   10.1002/2015jc010906   AbstractWebsite

Equatorial Pacific changes during the transition from a nonhiatus period (pre-1999) to the present global warming hiatus period (post-1999) are identified using a combination of reanalysis and observed data sets. Results show increased surface wind forcing has excited significant changes in wind-driven circulation. Over the last two decades, the core of the Equatorial Undercurrent intensified at a rate of 6.9 cm s(-1) decade(-1). Similarly, equatorial upwelling associated with the shallow meridional overturning circulation increased at a rate of 2.0 x 10(-4) cm s(-1) decade(-1) in the central Pacific. Further, a seasonal dependence is identified in the sea surface temperature trends and in subsurface dynamics. Seasonal variations are evident in reversals of equatorial surface flow trends, changes in subsurface circulation, and seasonal deepening/shoaling of the thermocline. Anomalous westward surface flow drives cold-water zonal advection from November to February, leading to surface cooling from December through May. Conversely, eastward surface current anomalies in June-July drive warm-water zonal advection producing surface warming from July to November. An improved dynamical understanding of how the tropical Pacific Ocean responds during transitions into hiatus events, including its seasonal structure, may help to improve future predictability of decadal climate variations.