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2017
Richter, I, Xie SP, Morioka Y, Doi T, Taguchi B, Behera S.  2017.  Phase locking of equatorial Atlantic variability through the seasonal migration of the ITCZ. Climate Dynamics. 48:3615-3629.   10.1007/s00382-016-3289-y   AbstractWebsite

The equatorial Atlantic is marked by significant interannual variability in sea-surface temperature (SST) that is phase-locked to late boreal spring and early summer. The role of the atmosphere in this phase locking is examined using observations, reanalysis data, and model output. The results show that equatorial zonal surface wind anomalies, which are a main driver of warm and cold events, typically start decreasing in June, despite SST and sea-level pressure gradient anomalies being at their peak during this month. This behavior is explained by the seasonal northward migration of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) in early summer. The north-equatorial position of the Atlantic ITCZ contributes to the decay of wind anomalies in three ways: (1) horizontal advection associated with the cross-equatorial winds transports air masses of comparatively low zonal momentum anomalies from the southeast toward the equator. (2) The absence of deep convection leads to changes in vertical momentum transport that reduce the equatorial wind anomalies at the surface, while anomalies aloft remain relatively strong. (3) The cross-equatorial flow is associated with increased total wind speed, which increases surface drag and deposit of momentum into the ocean. Previous studies have shown that convection enhances the surface wind response to SST anomalies. The present study indicates that convection also amplifies the surface zonal wind response to sea-level pressure gradients in the western equatorial Atlantic, where SST anomalies are small. This introduces a new element into coupled air-sea interaction of the tropical Atlantic.

2015
Liu, W, Lu J, Xie SP.  2015.  Understanding the Indian Ocean response to double CO2 forcing in a coupled model. Ocean Dynamics. 65:1037-1046.   10.1007/s10236-015-0854-6   AbstractWebsite

This study investigates the roles of multiple ocean-atmospheric feedbacks in the oceanic response to increased carbon dioxide by applying an overriding technique to a coupled climate model. The annual-mean sea surface temperature (SST) response in the Indian Ocean exhibits a zonal-dipolar warming pattern, with a reduced warming in the eastern and enhanced warming in the western tropical Indian Ocean (TIO), reminiscent of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) pattern. The development of the dipole pattern exhibits a pronounced seasonal evolution. The overriding experiments show that the wind-evaporation-sea surface temperature (WES) feedback accounts for most of the enhanced warming in the western and central TIO during May-July with reduced southerly monsoonal wind and contributes partially to the reduced warming in the eastern TIO during June-September. The Bjerknes feedback explains most of the reduced warming in the eastern TIO during August-October, accompanied by a reduction of precipitation, easterly wind anomalies, and a thermocline shoaling along the equator. Both feedbacks facilitate the formation of the dipolar warming pattern in the TIO. The residual from the Bjerknes and WES feedbacks is attributable to the "static" response to increasing CO2. While the static SST response also contributes to the seasonal SST variations, the static precipitation response is relatively uniform in the TIO, appearing as a general increase of precipitation along the equatorial Indian Ocean during June-September.

2014
Richter, I, Behera SK, Doi T, Taguchi B, Masumoto Y, Xie SP.  2014.  What controls equatorial Atlantic winds in boreal spring? Climate Dynamics. 43:3091-3104.   10.1007/s00382-014-2170-0   AbstractWebsite

The factors controlling equatorial Atlantic winds in boreal spring are examined using both observations and general circulation model (GCM) simulations from the coupled model intercomparison phase 5. The results show that the prevailing surface easterlies flow against the attendant pressure gradient and must therefore be maintained by other terms in the momentum budget. An important contribution comes from meridional advection of zonal momentum but the dominant contribution is the vertical transport of zonal momentum from the free troposphere to the surface. This implies that surface winds are strongly influenced by conditions in the free troposphere, chiefly pressure gradients and, to a lesser extent, meridional advection. Both factors are linked to the patterns of deep convection. Applying these findings to GCM errors indicates, that, consistent with the results of previous studies, the persistent westerly surface wind bias found in most GCMs is due mostly to precipitation errors, in particular excessive precipitation south of the equator over the ocean and deficient precipitation over equatorial South America. Free tropospheric influences also dominate the interannual variability of surface winds in boreal spring. GCM experiments with prescribed climatological sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) indicate that the free tropospheric influences are mostly associated with internal atmospheric variability. Since the surface wind anomalies in boreal spring are crucial to the development of warm SST events (Atlantic Ninos), the results imply that interannual variability in the region may rely far less on coupled air-sea feedbacks than is the case in the tropical Pacific.

Liu, L, Xie SP, Zheng XT, Li T, Du Y, Huang G, Yu WD.  2014.  Indian Ocean variability in the CMIP5 multi-model ensemble: the zonal dipole mode. Climate Dynamics. 43:1715-1730.   10.1007/s00382-013-2000-9   AbstractWebsite

The performance of 21 Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) models in the simulation of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) mode is evaluated. Compared to CMIP3, CMIP5 models exhibit a similar spread in IOD intensity. A detailed diagnosis was carried out to understand whether CMIP5 models have shown improvement in their representation of the important dynamical and thermodynamical feedbacks in the tropical Indian Ocean. These include the Bjerknes dynamic air-sea feedback, which includes the equatorial zonal wind response to sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly, the thermocline response to equatorial zonal wind forcing, the ocean subsurface temperature response to the thermocline variations, and the thermodynamic air-sea coupling that includes the wind-evaporation-SST and cloud-radiation-SST feedback. Compared to CMIP3, the CMIP5 ensemble produces a more realistic positive wind-evaporation-SST feedback during the IOD developing phase, while the simulation of Bjerknes dynamic feedback is more unrealistic especially with regard to the wind response to SST forcing and the thermocline response to surface wind forcing. The overall CMIP5 performance in the IOD simulation does not show remarkable improvements compared to CMIP3. It is further noted that the El Nio-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and IOD amplitudes are closely related, if a model generates a strong ENSO, it is likely that this model also simulates a strong IOD.

Richter, I, Xie SP, Behera SK, Doi T, Masumoto Y.  2014.  Equatorial Atlantic variability and its relation to mean state biases in CMIP5. Climate Dynamics. 42:171-188.   10.1007/s00382-012-1624-5   AbstractWebsite

Coupled general circulation model (GCM) simulations participating in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) are analyzed with respect to their performance in the equatorial Atlantic. In terms of the mean state, 29 out of 33 models examined continue to suffer from serious biases including an annual mean zonal equatorial SST gradient whose sign is opposite to observations. Westerly surface wind biases in boreal spring play an important role in the reversed SST gradient by deepening the thermocline in the eastern equatorial Atlantic and thus reducing upwelling efficiency and SST cooling in the following months. Both magnitude and seasonal evolution of the biases are very similar to what was found previously for CMIP3 models, indicating that improvements have only been modest. The weaker than observed equatorial easterlies are also simulated by atmospheric GCMs forced with observed SST. They are related to both continental convection and the latitudinal position of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). Particularly the latter has a strong influence on equatorial zonal winds in both the seasonal cycle and interannual variability. The dependence of equatorial easterlies on ITCZ latitude shows a marked asymmetry. From the equator to 15A degrees N, the equatorial easterlies intensify approximately linearly with ITCZ latitude. When the ITCZ is south of the equator, on the other hand, the equatorial easterlies are uniformly weak. Despite serious mean state biases, several models are able to capture some aspects of the equatorial mode of interannual SST variability, including amplitude, pattern, phase locking to boreal summer, and duration of events. The latitudinal position of the boreal spring ITCZ, through its influence on equatorial surface winds, appears to play an important role in initiating warm events.