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Cai, WJ, Wu LX, Lengaigne M, Li T, McGregor S, Kug JS, Yu JY, Stuecker MF, Santoso A, Li XC, Ham YG, Chikamoto Y, Ng B, McPhaden MJ, Du Y, Dommenget D, Jia F, Kajtar JB, Keenlyside N, Lin XP, Luo JJ, Martin-Rey M, Ruprich-Robert Y, Wang GJ, Xie SP, Yang Y, Kang SM, Choi JY, Gan BL, Kim GI, Kim CE, Kim S, Kim JH, Chang P.  2019.  Pantropical climate interactions. Science. 363:944-+.   10.1126/science.aav4236   AbstractWebsite

The El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which originates in the Pacific, is the strongest and most well-known mode of tropical climate variability. Its reach is global, and it can force climate variations of the tropical Atlantic and Indian Oceans by perturbing the global atmospheric circulation. Less appreciated is how the tropical Atlantic and Indian Oceans affect the Pacific. Especially noteworthy is the multidecadal Atlantic warming that began in the late 1990s, because recent research suggests that it has influenced Indo-Pacific climate, the character of the ENSO cycle, and the hiatus in global surface warming. Discovery of these pantropical interactions provides a pathway forward for improving predictions of climate variability in the current climate and for refining projections of future climate under different anthropogenic forcing scenarios.

Zheng, XT, Hui C, Xie SP, Cai WJ, Long SM.  2019.  Intensification of El Nino Rainfall Variability Over the Tropical Pacific in the Slow Oceanic Response to Global Warming. Geophysical Research Letters. 46:2253-2260.   10.1029/2018gl081414   AbstractWebsite

Changes in rainfall variability of El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are investigated under scenarios where the greenhouse gases increase and then stabilize. During the period of increasing greenhouse forcing, the ocean mixed layer warms rapidly. After the forcing stabilizes, the deeper ocean continues to warm the surface (the slow response). We show that ENSO rainfall variability over the tropical Pacific intensifies in both periods but the rate of increase per degree global mean surface temperature (GMST) warming is larger for the slow response because of greater relative warming in the base state as the mean upwelling changes from a damping to a driver of the surface warming. Our results have important implications for climate extremes under GMST stabilization that the Paris Agreement calls for. To stabilize GMST, the fast surface cooling offsets the slow warming from the prior greenhouse gas increase, while ENSO rainfall variability would continue to increase. Plain Language Summary The Paris Agreement calls for limiting global mean surface temperature increase to well below 2 degrees at the end of the 21st century. This requires the greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration to peak and subsequently decline in the next few decades. After the GHG concentration peak, the heat accumulated in the ocean surface layer continues to penetrate to the deeper ocean. This deeper ocean warming leads to a slow response of surface warming, further influencing the climate system. This study examines scenarios where GHGs increase and then stabilize to isolate the fast and slow responses of El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) rainfall variability. We find intensification of ENSO rainfall variability both during the increase and after stabilization of GHG concentrations due to a persistent El Nino-like mean warming pattern in the tropical Pacific. Furthermore, for unit global mean surface temperature increase, the changes in the mean state temperature and ENSO rainfall variability in the eastern equatorial Pacific is larger during the slow response. These results imply that there is a need for GHG emission reduction in the near future to avoid more extreme tropical rainfall during El Nino.

Peng, QH, Xie SP, Wang DX, Zheng XT, Zhang H.  2019.  Coupled ocean-atmosphere dynamics of the 2017 extreme coastal El Nino. Nature Communications. 10   10.1038/s41467-018-08258-8   AbstractWebsite

In March 2017, sea surface temperatures off Peru rose above 28 degrees C, causing torrential rains that affected the lives of millions of people. This coastal warming is highly unusual in that it took place with a weak La Nina state. Observations and ocean model experiments show that the downwelling Kelvin waves caused by strong westerly wind events over the equatorial Pacific, together with anomalous northerly coastal winds, are important. Atmospheric model experiments further show the anomalous coastal winds are forced by the coastal warming. Taken together, these results indicate a positive feedback off Peru between the coastal warming, atmospheric deep convection, and the coastal winds. These coupled processes provide predictability. Indeed, initialized on as early as 1 February 2017, seasonal prediction models captured the extreme rainfall event. Climate model projections indicate that the frequency of extreme coastal El Nino will increase under global warming.

Zhang, Y, Xie SP, Kosaka Y, Yang JC.  2018.  Pacific decadal oscillation: Tropical Pacific forcing versus internal variability. Journal of Climate. 31:8265-8279.   10.1175/jcli-d-18-0164.1   AbstractWebsite

The Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) is the leading mode of sea surface temperature (SST) variability over the North Pacific (north of 20 degrees N). Its South Pacific counterpart (south of 20 degrees S) is the South Pacific decadal oscillation (SPDO). The effects of tropical eastern Pacific (TEP) SST forcing and internal atmospheric variability are investigated for both the PDO and SPDO using a 10-member ensemble tropical Pacific pacemaker experiment. Each member is forced by the historical radiative forcing and observed SST anomalies in the TEP region. Outside the TEP region, the ocean and atmosphere are fully coupled and freely evolve. The TEP-forced PDO (54% variance) and SPDO (46% variance) are correlated in time and exhibit a symmetric structure about the equator, driven by the Pacific-North American (PNA) and Pacific-South American teleconnections, respectively. The internal PDO resembles the TEP-forced component but is related to internal Aleutian low (AL) variability associated with the Northern Hemisphere annular mode and PNA pattern. The internal variability is locally enhanced by barotropic energy conversion in the westerly jet exit region around the Aleutians. By contrast, barotropic energy conversion is weak associated with the internal SPDO, resulting in weak geographical preference of sea level pressure variability. Therefore, the internal SPDO differs from the TEP-forced component, featuring SST anomalies along similar to 60 degrees S in association with the Southern Hemisphere annular mode. The limitations on isolating the internal component from observations are discussed. Specifically, internal PDO variability appears to contribute significantly to the North Pacific regime shift in the 1940s.

Xie, SP, Peng QH, Kamae Y, Zheng XT, Tokinaga H, Wang DX.  2018.  Eastern Pacific ITCZ Dipole and ENSO Diversity. Journal of Climate. 31:4449-4462.   10.1175/jcli-d-17-0905.1   AbstractWebsite

The eastern tropical Pacific features strong climatic asymmetry across the equator, with the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) displaced north of the equator most of time. In February- April (FMA), the seasonal warming in the Southern Hemisphere and cooling in the Northern Hemisphere weaken the climatic asymmetry, and a double ITCZ appears with a zonal rainband on either side of the equator. Results from an analysis of precipitation variability reveal that the relative strength between the northern and southern ITCZ varies from one year to another and this meridional seesaw results from ocean-atmosphere coupling. Surprisingly this meridional seesaw is triggered by an El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) of moderate amplitudes. Although ENSO is originally symmetric about the equator, the asymmetry in the mean climate in the preceding season introduces asymmetric perturbations, which are then preferentially amplified by coupled ocean-atmosphere feedback in FMA when deep convection is sensitive to small changes in cross-equatorial gradient of sea surface temperature. This study shows that moderate ENSO follows a distinct decay trajectory in FMA and southeasterly cross-equatorial wind anomalies cause moderate El Nino to dissipate rapidly as southeasterly cross-equatorial wind anomalies intensify ocean upwelling south of the equator. In contrast, extreme El Nino remains strong through FMA as enhanced deep convection causes westerly wind anomalies to intrude and suppress ocean upwelling in the eastern equatorial Pacific.

Kamae, Y, Shiogama H, Imada Y, Mori M, Arakawa O, Mizuta R, Yoshida K, Takahashi C, Arai M, Ishii M, Watanabe M, Kimoto M, Xie SP, Ueda H.  2017.  Forced response and internal variability of summer climate over western North America. Climate Dynamics. 49:403-417.   10.1007/s00382-016-3350-x   AbstractWebsite

Over the past decade, anomalously hot summers and persistent droughts frequented over the western United States (wUS), the condition similar to the 1950s and 1960s. While atmospheric internal variability is important for mid-latitude interannual climate variability, it has been suggested that anthropogenic external forcing and multidecadal modes of variability in sea surface temperature, namely, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), also affect the occurrence of droughts and hot summers. In this study, 100-member ensemble simulations for 1951-2010 by an atmospheric general circulation model were used to explore relative contributions of anthropogenic warming, atmospheric internal variability, and atmospheric response to PDO and AMO to the decadal anomalies over the wUS. By comparing historical and sensitivity simulations driven by observed sea surface temperature, sea ice, historical forcing agents, and non-warming counterfactual climate forcing, we found that large portions of recent increases in mean temperature and frequency of hot summers (66 and 82 %) over the wUS can be attributed to the anthropogenic global warming. In contrast, multidecadal change in the wUS precipitation is explained by a combination of the negative PDO and the positive AMO after the 2000s. Diagnostics using a linear baroclinic model indicate that AMO- and PDO-related diabatic heating anomalies over the tropics contribute to the anomalous atmospheric circulation associated with the droughts and hot summers over wUS on multidecadal timescale. Those anomalies are not robust during the periods when PDO and AMO are in phase. The prolonged PDO-AMO antiphase period since the late twentieth century resulted in the substantial component of multidecadal anomalies in temperature and precipitation over the wUS.

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.

Xie, SP, Zhou ZQ.  2017.  Seasonal modulations of El Nino-related atmospheric variability: Indo-Western Pacific Ocean feedback. Journal of Climate. 30:3461-3472.   10.1175/jcli-d-16-0713.1   AbstractWebsite

The spatial structure of atmospheric anomalies associated with El Nino-Southern Oscillation varies with season because of the seasonal variations in sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly pattern and in the climatological basic state. The latter effect is demonstrated using an atmospheric model forced with a time-invariant pattern of El Nino warming over the equatorial Pacific. The seasonal modulation is most pronounced over the north Indian Ocean to northwest Pacific where the monsoonal winds vary from northeasterly in winter to southwesterly in summer. Specifically, the constant El Nino run captures the abrupt transition from a summer cyclonic to winter anticyclonic anomalous circulation over the northwest Pacific, in support of the combination mode idea that emphasizes nonlinear interactions of equatorial Pacific SST forcing and the climatological seasonal cycle. In post-El Nino summers when equatorial Pacific warming has dissipated, SST anomalies over the Indo-northwest Pacific Oceans dominate and anchor the coherent persisting anomalous anticyclonic circulation. A conceptual model is presented that incorporates the combination mode in the existing framework of regional Indo-western Pacific Ocean coupling.

Li, G, Xie SP, Du Y, Luo YY.  2016.  Effects of excessive equatorial cold tongue bias on the projections of tropical Pacific climate change. Part I: the warming pattern in CMIP5 multi-model ensemble. Climate Dynamics. 47:3817-3831.   10.1007/s00382-016-3043-5   AbstractWebsite

The excessive cold tongue error in the equatorial Pacific has persisted in several generations of climate models. Based on the historical simulations and Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5 experiments in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) multi-model ensemble (MME), this study finds that models with an excessive westward extension of cold tongue and insufficient equatorial western Pacific precipitation tend to project a weaker east-minus-west gradient of sea surface temperature (SST) warming along the equatorial Pacific under increased greenhouse gas (GHG) forcing. This La Nia-like error of tropical Pacific SST warming is consistent with our understanding of negative SST-convective feedback over the western Pacific warm pool. Based on this relationship between the present simulations and future projections, the present study applies an "observational constraint" of equatorial western Pacific precipitation to calibrate the projections of tropical Pacific climate change. After the corrections, CMIP5 models robustly project an El Nio-like warming pattern, with a MME mean increase by a factor of 2.3 in east-minus-west gradient of equatorial Pacific SST warming and reduced inter-model uncertainty. Corrections in projected changes in tropical precipitation and atmospheric circulation are physically consistent. This study suggests that a realistic cold tongue simulation would lead to a more reliable tropical Pacific climate projection.

Mei, W, Xie SP.  2016.  Intensification of landfalling typhoons over the northwest Pacific since the late 1970s. Nature Geoscience. 9:753-+.   10.1038/ngeo2792   AbstractWebsite

Intensity changes in landfalling typhoons are of great concern to East and Southeast Asian countries(1). Regional changes in typhoon intensity, however, are poorly known owing to inconsistencies among different data sets(2-8). Here, we apply cluster analysis to bias-corrected data and show that, over the past 37 years, typhoons that strike East and Southeast Asia have intensified by 12-15%, with the proportion of storms of categories 4 and 5 having doubled or even tripled. In contrast, typhoons that stay over the open ocean have experienced only modest changes. These regional changes are consistent between operational data sets. To identify the physical mechanisms, we decompose intensity changes into contributions from intensification rate and intensification duration. We find that the increased intensity of landfalling typhoons is due to strengthened intensification rates, which in turn are tied to locally enhanced ocean surface warming on the rim of East and Southeast Asia. The projected ocean surface warming pattern under increasing greenhouse gas forcing suggests that typhoons striking eastern mainland China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan will intensify further. Given disproportionate damages by intense typhoons(1), this represents a heightened threat to people and properties in the region.

Zheng, XT, Xie SP, Lv LH, Zhou ZQ.  2016.  Intermodel uncertainty in ENSO amplitude change tied to Pacific Ocean warming pattern. Journal of Climate. 29:7265-7279.   10.1175/jcli-d-16-0039.1   AbstractWebsite

How El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) will change under global warming affects changes in extreme events around the world. The change of ENSO amplitude is investigated based on the historical simulations and representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 experiments in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). The projected change in ENSO amplitude is highly uncertain with large intermodel uncertainty. By using the relative sea surface temperature (SST) as a measure of convective instability, this study finds that the spatial pattern of tropical Pacific surface warming is the major source of intermodel uncertainty in ENSO amplitude change. In models with an enhanced mean warming in the eastern equatorial Pacific, the barrier to deep convection is reduced, and the intensified rainfall anomalies of ENSO amplify the wind response and hence SST variability. In models with a reduced eastern Pacific warming, conversely, ENSO amplitude decreases. Corroborating the mean SST pattern effect, intermodel uncertainty in changes of ENSO-induced rainfall variability decreases substantially in atmospheric simulations forced by a common ocean warming pattern. Thus, reducing the uncertainty in the Pacific surface warming pattern helps improve the reliability of ENSO projections. To the extent that correcting model biases favors an El Nino-like mean warming pattern, this study suggests an increase in ENSO-related SST variance likely under global warming.

Kilpatrick, TJ, Xie SP.  2016.  Circumventing rain-related errors in scatterometer wind observations. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 121:9422-9440.   10.1002/2016jd025105   AbstractWebsite

Satellite scatterometer observations of surface winds over the global oceans are critical for climate research and applications like weather forecasting. However, rain-related errors remain an important limitation, largely precluding satellite study of winds in rainy areas. Here we utilize a novel technique to compute divergence and curl from satellite observations of surface winds and surface wind stress in rainy areas. This technique circumvents rain-related errors by computing line integrals around rainy patches, using valid wind vector observations that border the rainy patches. The area-averaged divergence and wind stress curl inside each rainy patch are recovered via the divergence and curl theorems. We process the 10 year Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) data set and show that the line-integral method brings the QuikSCAT winds into better agreement with an atmospheric reanalysis, largely removing both the "divergence bias" and "anticyclonic curl bias" in rainy areas noted in previous studies. The corrected QuikSCAT wind stress curl reduces the North Pacific midlatitude Sverdrup transport by 20-30%. We test several methods of computing divergence and curl on winds from an atmospheric model simulation and show that the line-integral method has the smallest errors. We anticipate that scatterometer winds processed with the line-integral method will improve ocean model simulations and help illuminate the coupling between atmospheric convection and circulation.

Li, G, Xie SP, Du Y.  2016.  A robust but spurious pattern of climate change in model projections over the tropical Indian Ocean. Journal of Climate. 29:5589-5608.   10.1175/jcli-d-15-0565.1   AbstractWebsite

Climate models consistently project reduced surface warming over the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean (IO) under increased greenhouse gas (GHG) forcing. This IO dipole (IOD)-like warming pattern, regarded as robust based on consistency among models by the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, results in a large increase in the frequency of extreme positive IOD (pIOD) events, elevating the risk of climate and weather disasters in the future over IO rim countries. These projections, however, do not consider large model biases in both the mean state and interannual IOD variance. In particular, a "present-future relationship" is identified between the historical simulations and representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 experiments from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) multimodel ensemble: models with an excessive IOD amplitude bias tend to project a strong IOD-like warming pattern in themean and a large increase in extreme pIOD occurrences under increased GHG forcing. This relationship links the present simulation errors to future climate projections, and is also consistent with our understanding of Bjerknes ocean-atmosphere feedback. This study calibrates regional climate projections by using this present-future relationship and observed IOD amplitude. The results show that the projected IOD-like pattern of mean changes and frequency increase of extreme pIOD events are largely artifacts of model errors and unlikely to emerge in the future. These results illustrate that a robust projection may still be biased and it is important to consider the model bias effect.

Zhang, RS, Xie SP, Xu LX, Liu QY.  2016.  Changes in mixed layer depth and spring bloom in the Kuroshio extension under global warming. Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. 33:452-461.   10.1007/s00376-015-5113-8   AbstractWebsite

The mixed layer is deep in January-April in the Kuroshio Extension region. This paper investigates the response in this region of mixed layer depth (MLD) and the spring bloom initiation to global warming using the output of 15 models from CMIP5. The models indicate that in the late 21st century the mixed layer will shoal, and the MLD reduction will be most pronounced in spring at about 33A degrees N on the southern edge of the present deep-MLD region. The advection of temperature change in the upper 100 m by the mean eastward flow explains the spatial pattern of MLD shoaling in the models. Associated with the shoaling mixed layer, the onset of spring bloom inception is projected to advance due to the strengthened stratification in the warming climate.

Xie, SP, Kosaka Y, Du Y, Hu KM, Chowdary J, Huang G.  2016.  Indo-western Pacific ocean capacitor and coherent climate anomalies in post-ENSO summer: A review. Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. 33:411-432.   10.1007/s00376-015-5192-6   AbstractWebsite

ENSO induces coherent climate anomalies over the Indo-western Pacific, but these anomalies outlast SST anomalies of the equatorial Pacific by a season, with major effects on the Asian summer monsoon. This review provides historical accounts of major milestones and synthesizes recent advances in the endeavor to understand summer variability over the Indo-Northwest Pacific region. Specifically, a large-scale anomalous anticyclone (AAC) is a recurrent pattern in post-El NiEeno summers, spanning the tropical Northwest Pacific and North Indian oceans. Regarding the ocean memory that anchors the summer AAC, competing hypotheses emphasize either SST cooling in the easterly trade wind regime of the Northwest Pacific or SST warming in the westerly monsoon regime of the North Indian Ocean. Our synthesis reveals a coupled ocean-atmosphere mode that builds on both mechanisms in a two-stage evolution. In spring, when the northeast trades prevail, the AAC and Northwest Pacific cooling are coupled via wind-evaporation-SST feedback. The Northwest Pacific cooling persists to trigger a summer feedback that arises from the interaction of the AAC and North Indian Ocean warming, enabled by the westerly monsoon wind regime. This Indo-western Pacific ocean capacitor (IPOC) effect explains why El Nino stages its last act over the monsoonal Indo-Northwest Pacific and casts the Indian Ocean warming and AAC in leading roles. The IPOC displays interdecadal modulations by the ENSO variance cycle, significantly correlated with ENSO at the turn of the 20th century and after the 1970s, but not in between. Outstanding issues, including future climate projections, are also discussed.

Long, SM, Xie SP.  2016.  Uncertainty in tropical rainfall projections: Atmospheric circulation effect and the ocean coupling. Journal of Climate. 29:2671-2687.   10.1175/jcli-d-15-0601.1   AbstractWebsite

Uncertainty in tropical rainfall projections under increasing radiative forcing is studied by using 26 models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. Intermodel spread in projected rainfall change generally increases with interactive sea surface temperature (SST) warming in coupled models compared to atmospheric models with a common pattern of prescribed SST increase. Moisture budget analyses reveal that much of the model uncertainty in tropical rainfall projections originates from intermodel discrepancies in the dynamical contribution due to atmospheric circulation change. Intermodel singular value decomposition (SVD) analyses further show a tight coupling between the intermodel variations in SST warming pattern and circulation change in the tropics. In the zonal mean, the first SVD mode features an anomalous interhemispheric Hadley circulation, while the second mode displays an SST peak near the equator. The asymmetric mode is accompanied by a coupled pattern of wind-evaporation-SST feedback in the tropics and is further tied to interhemispheric asymmetric change in extratropical shortwave radiative flux at the top of the atmosphere. Intermodel variability in the tropical circulation change exerts a strong control on the spread in tropical cloud cover change and cloud radiative effects among models. The results indicate that understanding the coupling between the anthropogenic changes in SST pattern and atmospheric circulation holds the key to reducing uncertainties in projections of future changes in tropical rainfall and clouds.

Kubota, H, Kosaka Y, Xie SP.  2016.  A 117-year long index of the Pacific-Japan pattern with application to interdecadal variability. International Journal of Climatology. 36:1575-1589.   10.1002/joc.4441   AbstractWebsite

The Pacific-Japan (PJ) pattern affects interannual variability in the East Asian and western North Pacific (WNP) summer monsoons. This teleconnection pattern is characterized by a meridional dipole of anomalous circulation and precipitation between the tropical WNP and the midlatitudes. This study develops a long index of the PJ pattern using station-based atmospheric pressure data to track the PJ variability from 1897 to 2013. This index is correlated with a wide array of climate variables including air temperature, precipitation, Yangtze River flow, Japanese rice yield and the occurrence of tropical cyclones over the WNP (especially those that make landfall on the Chinese and Korean coast). For the recent three decades, the PJ index reproduces well-known correlations with El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the preceding boreal winter and Indian Ocean temperature in the concurrent summer. For the 117-year period, this ENSO-PJ relationship varies on interdecadal time scales, with low correlations in the 1920s and from the 1940s to 1970s, and recurrences of significant correlations at the beginning of the 20th century and the 1930s. In accordance with the modulation, the magnitude and regional climate effect of the PJ variability have changed. These results highlight the importance of interdecadal modulations of climate anomalies in the summer WNP and the need of long-term observations to study such modulations.

Li, XC, Xie SP, Gille ST, Yoo C.  2016.  Atlantic-induced pan-tropical climate change over the past three decades. Nature Climate Change. 6:275-+.   10.1038/nclimate2840   AbstractWebsite

During the past three decades, tropical sea surface temperature (SST) has shown dipole-like trends, with warming over the tropical Atlantic and Indo-western Pacific but cooling over the eastern Pacific. Competing hypotheses relate this cooling, identified as a driver of the global warming hiatus(1,2), to the warming trends in either the Atlantic(3,4) or Indian Ocean(5). However, the mechanisms, the relative importance and the interactions between these teleconnections remain unclear. Using a state-of-the-art climate model, we show that the Atlantic plays a key role in initiating the tropical-wide teleconnection, and the Atlantic-induced anomalies contribute similar to 55-75% of the tropical SST and circulation changes during the satellite era. The Atlantic warming drives easterly wind anomalies over the Indo-western Pacific as Kelvin waves and westerly anomalies over the eastern Pacific as Rossby waves. The wind changes induce an Indo-western Pacific warming through the wind-evaporation-SST effect(6,7), and this warming intensifies the La Nina-type response in the tropical Pacific by enhancing the easterly trade winds and through the Bjerknes ocean dynamical processes(8). The teleconnection develops into a tropical-wide SST dipole pattern. This mechanism, supported by observations and a hierarchy of climate models, reveals that the tropical ocean basins are more tightly connected than previously thought.

Kamae, Y, Ogura T, Watanabe M, Xie SP, Ueda H.  2016.  Robust cloud feedback over tropical land in a warming climate. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 121:2593-2609.   10.1002/2015jd024525   AbstractWebsite

Cloud-related radiative perturbations over land in a warming climate are of importance for human health, ecosystem, agriculture, and industry via solar radiation availability and local warming amplification. However, robustness and physical mechanisms responsible for the land cloud feedback were not examined sufficiently because of the limited contribution to uncertainty in global climate sensitivity. Here we show that cloud feedback in general circulation models over tropical land is robust, positive, and is relevant to atmospheric circulation change and thermodynamic constraint associated with water vapor availability. In a warming climate, spatial variations in tropospheric warming associated with climatological circulation pattern result in a general weakening of tropical circulation and a dynamic reduction of land cloud during summer monsoon season. Limited increase in availability of water vapor also reduces the land cloud. The reduction of land cloud depends on global-scale oceanic warming and is not sensitive to regional warming patterns. The robust positive feedback can contribute to the warming amplification and drying over tropical land in the future.

Huang, P, Xie SP.  2015.  Mechanisms of change in ENSO-induced tropical Pacific rainfall variability in a warming climate. Nature Geoscience. 8:922-U48.   10.1038/ngeo2571   AbstractWebsite

El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a mode of natural variability that has considerable impacts on global climate and ecosystems(1-4), through rainfall variability in the tropical Pacific and atmospheric teleconnections(5). In response to global warming, ENSO-driven rainfall variability is projected to intensify over the central-eastern Pacific but weaken over the western Pacific, whereas ENSO-related sea surface temperature variability is projected to decrease(6-14). Here, we explore the mechanisms that lead to changes in ENSO-driven rainfall variability in the tropical Pacific in response to global warming, with the help of a moisture budget decomposition for simulations from eighteen state-of-the-art climate models(15). We identify two opposing mechanisms that approximately offset each other: the increase in mean-state moisture content associated with surface warming strengthens ENSO-related rainfall anomalies(7), whereas the projected reduction in ENSO-related variability of sea surface temperatures suppresses rainfall. Two additional effects-spatially non-uniform changes in background sea surface temperatures and structural changes in sea surface temperature related to ENSO-both enhance central-eastern Pacific rainfall variability while dampening variability in the western Pacific, in nearly equal amounts. Our decomposition method may be generalized to investigate how rainfall variability would change owing to nonlinear interactions between background sea surface temperatures and their variability.

Yang, Y, Xie SP, Wu LX, Kosaka Y, Lau NC, Vecchi GA.  2015.  Seasonality and predictability of the Indian Ocean Dipole Mode: ENSO forcing and internal variability. Journal of Climate. 28:8021-8036.   10.1175/jcli-d-15-0078.1   AbstractWebsite

This study evaluates the relative contributions to the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) mode of interannual variability from the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forcing and ocean-atmosphere feedbacks internal to the Indian Ocean. The ENSO forcing and internal variability is extracted by conducting a 10-member coupled simulation for 1950-2012 where sea surface temperature (SST) is restored to the observed anomalies over the tropical Pacific but interactive with the atmosphere over the rest of the World Ocean. In these experiments, the ensemble mean is due to ENSO forcing and the intermember difference arises from internal variability of the climate system independent of ENSO. These elements contribute one-third and two-thirds of the total IOD variance, respectively. Both types of IOD variability develop into an east-west dipole pattern because of Bjerknes feedback and peak in September-November. The ENSO forced and internal IOD modes differ in several important ways. The forced IOD mode develops in August with a broad meridional pattern and eventually evolves into the Indian Ocean basin mode, while the internal IOD mode grows earlier in June, is more confined to the equator, and decays rapidly after October. The internal IOD mode is more skewed than the ENSO forced response. The destructive interference of ENSO forcing and internal variability can explain early terminating IOD events, referred to as IOD-like perturbations that fail to grow during boreal summer. The results have implications for predictability. Internal variability, as represented by preseason sea surface height anomalies off Sumatra, contributes to predictability considerably. Including this indicator of internal variability, together with ENSO, improves the predictability of IOD.

Xie, SP, Deser C, Vecchi GA, Collins M, Delworth TL, Hall A, Hawkins E, Johnson NC, Cassou C, Giannini A, Watanabe M.  2015.  Towards predictive understanding of regional climate change. Nature Climate Change. 5:921-930.   10.1038/nclimate2689   AbstractWebsite

Regional information on climate change is urgently needed but often deemed unreliable. To achieve credible regional climate projections, it is essential to understand underlying physical processes, reduce model biases and evaluate their impact on projections, and adequately account for internal variability. In the tropics, where atmospheric internal variability is small compared with the forced change, advancing our understanding of the coupling between long-term changes in upper-ocean temperature and the atmospheric circulation will help most to narrow the uncertainty. In the extratropics, relatively large internal variability introduces substantial uncertainty, while exacerbating risks associated with extreme events. Large ensemble simulations are essential to estimate the probabilistic distribution of climate change on regional scales. Regional models inherit atmospheric circulation uncertainty from global models and do not automatically solve the problem of regional climate change. We conclude that the current priority is to understand and reduce uncertainties on scales greater than 100 km to aid assessments at finer scales.

Li, G, Xie SP, Du Y.  2015.  Climate model errors over the South Indian Ocean thermocline dome and their effect on the basin mode of interannual variability. Journal of Climate. 28:3093-3098.   10.1175/jcli-d-14-00810.1   AbstractWebsite

An open-ocean thermocline dome south of the equator is a striking feature of the Indian Ocean (IO) as a result of equatorial westerly winds. Over the thermocline dome, the El Nino-forced Rossby waves help sustain the IO basin (IOB) mode and offer climate predictability for the IO and surrounding countries. This study shows that a common equatorial easterly wind bias, by forcing a westward-propagating downwelling Rossby wave in the southern IO, induces too deep a thermocline dome over the southwestern IO (SWIO) in state-of-the-art climate models. Such a deep SWIO thermocline weakens the influence of subsurface variability on sea surface temperature (SST), reducing the IOB amplitude and possibly limiting the models' skill of regional climate prediction. To the extent that the equatorial easterly wind bias originates from errors of the South Asian summer monsoon, improving the monsoon simulation can lead to substantial improvements in simulating and predicting interannual variability in the IO.

Li, G, Xie SP, Du Y.  2015.  Monsoon-induced biases of climate models over the tropical Indian Ocean. Journal of Climate. 28:3058-3072.   10.1175/jcli-d-14-00740.1   AbstractWebsite

Long-standing biases of climate models limit the skills of climate prediction and projection. Overlooked are tropical Indian Ocean (IO) errors. Based on the phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) multimodel ensemble, the present study identifies a common error pattern in climate models that resembles the IO dipole (IOD) mode of interannual variability in nature, with a strong equatorial easterly wind bias during boreal autumn accompanied by physically consistent biases in precipitation, sea surface temperature (SST), and subsurface ocean temperature. The analyses show that such IOD-like biases can be traced back to errors in the South Asian summer monsoon. A southwest summer monsoon that is too weak over the Arabian Sea generates a warm SST bias over the western equatorial IO. In boreal autumn, Bjerknes feedback helps amplify the error into an IOD-like bias pattern in wind, precipitation, SST, and subsurface ocean temperature. Such mean state biases result in an interannual IOD variability that is too strong. Most models project an IOD-like future change for the boreal autumn mean state in the global warming scenario, which would result in more frequent occurrences of extreme positive IOD events in the future with important consequences to Indonesia and East Africa. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) characterizes this future IOD-like projection in the mean state as robust based on consistency among models, but the authors' results cast doubts on this conclusion since models with larger IOD amplitude biases tend to produce stronger IOD-like projected changes in the future.

Chikamoto, Y, Timmermann A, Luo JJ, Mochizuki T, Kimoto M, Watanabe M, Ishii M, Xie SP, Jin FF.  2015.  Skilful multi-year predictions of tropical trans-basin climate variability. Nature Communications. 6   10.1038/ncomms7869   AbstractWebsite

Tropical Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies influence the atmospheric circulation, impacting climate far beyond the tropics. The predictability of the corresponding atmospheric signals is typically limited to less than 1 year lead time. Here we present observational and modelling evidence for multi-year predictability of coherent trans-basin climate variations that are characterized by a zonal seesaw in tropical sea surface temperature and sea-level pressure between the Pacific and the other two ocean basins. State-of-the-art climate model forecasts initialized from a realistic ocean state show that the low-frequency trans-basin climate variability, which explains part of the El Nino Southern Oscillation flavours, can be predicted up to 3 years ahead, thus exceeding the predictive skill of current tropical climate forecasts for natural variability. This low-frequency variability emerges from the synchronization of ocean anomalies in all basins via global reorganizations of the atmospheric Walker Circulation.