Publications

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2015
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.

Mei, W, Xie SP, Zhao M, Wang YQ.  2015.  Forced and internal vriability of tropical cyclone track density in the Western North Pacific. Journal of Climate. 28:143-167.   10.1175/jcli-d-14-00164.1   AbstractWebsite

Forced interannual-to-decadal variability of annual tropical cyclone (TC) track density in the western North Pacific between 1979 and 2008 is studied using TC tracks from observations and simulations by a 25-km-resolution version of the GFDL High-Resolution Atmospheric Model (HiRAM) that is forced by observed sea surface temperatures (SSTs). Two modes dominate the decadal variability: a nearly basinwide mode, and a dipole mode between the subtropics and lower latitudes. The former mode links to variations in TC number and is forced by SST variations over the off-equatorial tropical central North Pacific, whereas the latter might be associated with the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation. The interannual variability is also controlled by two modes: a basinwide mode driven by SST anomalies of opposite signs located in the tropical central Pacific and eastern Indian Ocean, and a southeast-northwest dipole mode connected to the conventional eastern Pacific ENSO. The seasonal evolution of the ENSO effect on TC activity is further explored via a joint empirical orthogonal function analysis using TC track density of consecutive seasons, and the analysis reveals that two types of ENSO are at work. Internal variability in TC track density is then examined using ensemble simulations from both HiRAM and a regional atmospheric model. It exhibits prominent spatial and seasonal patterns, and it is particularly strong in the South China Sea and along the coast of East Asia. This makes an accurate prediction and projection of TC landfall extremely challenging in these regions. In contrast, basin-integrated metrics (e.g., total TC counts and TC days) are more predictable.

2014
Hu, KM, Huang G, Zheng XT, Xie SP, Qu X, Du Y, Liu L.  2014.  Interdecadal variations in ENSO influences on Northwest Pacific-East Asian early summertime climate simulated in CMIP5 models. Journal of Climate. 27:5982-5998.   10.1175/jcli-d-13-00268.1   AbstractWebsite

The present study investigates interdecadal modulations of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) influence on the climate of the northwest Pacific (NWP) and East Asia (EA) in early boreal summer following a winter ENSO event, based on 19 simulations from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). In the historical run, 8 out of 19 models capture a realistic relationship between ENSO and NWP early summer climate-an anomalous anticyclone develops over the NWP following a winter El Nino event- and the interdecadal modulations of this correlation. During periods when the association between ENSO and NWP early summer climate is strong, ENSO variance and ENSO-induced anomalies of summer sea surface temperature (SST) and tropospheric temperature over the tropical Indian Ocean (TIO) all strengthen relative to periods when the association is weak. In future projections with representative concentration pathways 4.5 and 8.5, the response of TIO SST, tropospheric temperature, and NWP anomalous anticyclone to ENSO all strengthen regardless of ENSO amplitude change. In a warmer climate, low-level specific humidity response to interannual SST variability strengthens following the Clausius-Clapeyron equation. The resultant intensification of tropospheric temperature response to interannual TIO warming is suggested as the mechanism for the strengthened ENSO effect on NWP-EA summer climate.

Mei, W, Xie SP, Zhao M.  2014.  Variability of tropical cyclone track density in the North Atlantic: Observations and high-resolution simulations. Journal of Climate. 27:4797-4814.   10.1175/jcli-d-13-00587.1   AbstractWebsite

Interannual-decadal variability of tropical cyclone (TC) track density over the North Atlantic (NA) between 1979 and 2008 is studied using observations and simulations with a 25-km-resolution version of the High Resolution Atmospheric Model (HiRAM) forced by observed sea surface temperatures (SSTs). The variability on decadal and interannual time scales is examined separately. On both time scales, a basinwide mode dominates, with the time series being related to variations in seasonal TC counts. On decadal time scales, this mode relates to SST contrasts between the tropical NA and the tropical northeast Pacific as well as the tropical South Atlantic, whereas on interannual time scales it is controlled by SSTs over the central eastern equatorial Pacific and those over the tropical NA. The temporal evolution of the spatial distribution of track density is further investigated by normalizing the track density with seasonal TC counts. On decadal time scales, two modes emerge: one is an oscillation between track density over the U.S. East Coast and midlatitude ocean and that over the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea and the other oscillates between low and middle latitudes. They might be driven by the preceding winter North Atlantic Oscillation and concurrent Atlantic meridional mode, respectively. On interannual time scales, two similar modes are present in observations but are not well separated in HiRAM simulations. Finally, the internal variability and predictability of TC track density are explored and discussed using HiRAM ensemble simulations. The results suggest that basinwide total TC counts/days are much more predictable than local TC occurrence, posing a serious challenge to the prediction and projection of regional TC threats, especially the U.S. landfall hurricanes.

Zinke, J, Rountrey A, Feng M, Xie SP, Dissard D, Rankenburg K, Lough JM, McCulloch MT.  2014.  Corals record long-term Leeuwin current variability including Ningaloo Nino/Nina since 1795. Nature Communications. 5   10.1038/ncomms4607   AbstractWebsite

Variability of the Leeuwin current (LC) off Western Australia is a footprint of interannual and decadal climate variations in the tropical Indo-Pacific. La Nina events often result in a strengthened LC, high coastal sea levels and unusually warm sea surface temperatures (SSTs), termed Ningaloo Nino. The rarity of such extreme events and the response of the southeastern Indian Ocean to regional and remote climate forcing are poorly understood owing to the lack of long-term records. Here we use well-replicated coral SST records from within the path of the LC, together with a reconstruction of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation to hindcast historical SST and LC strength from 1795 to 2010. We show that interannual and decadal variations in SST and LC strength characterized the past 215 years and that the most extreme sea level and SST anomalies occurred post 1980. These recent events were unprecedented in severity and are likely aided by accelerated global ocean warming and sea-level rise.

2013
Du, Y, Xie SP, Yang YL, Zheng XT, Liu L, Huang G.  2013.  Indian Ocean Variability in the CMIP5 Multimodel Ensemble: The Basin Mode. Journal of Climate. 26:7240-7266.   10.1175/jcli-d-12-00678.1   AbstractWebsite

This study evaluates the simulation of the Indian Ocean Basin (IOB) mode and relevant physical processes in models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). Historical runs from 20 CMIP5 models are available for the analysis. They reproduce the IOB mode and its close relationship to El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Half of the models capture key IOB processes: a downwelling oceanic Rossby wave in the southern tropical Indian Ocean (TIO) precedes the IOB development in boreal fall and triggers an antisymmetric wind anomaly pattern across the equator in the following spring. The anomalous wind pattern induces a second warming in the north Indian Ocean (NIO) through summer and sustains anticyclonic wind anomalies in the northwest Pacific by radiating a warm tropospheric Kelvin wave. The second warming in the NIO is indicative of ocean-atmosphere interaction in the interior TIO. More than half of the models display a double peak in NIO warming, as observed following El Nino, while the rest show only one winter peak. The intermodel diversity in the characteristics of the IOB mode seems related to the thermocline adjustment in the south TIO to ENSO-induced wind variations. Almost all the models show multidecadal variations in IOB variance, possibly modulated by ENSO.

Huang, P, Xie SP, Hu KM, Huang G, Huang RH.  2013.  Patterns of the seasonal response of tropical rainfall to global warming. Nature Geoscience. 6:357-361.   10.1038/ngeo1792   AbstractWebsite

Tropical convection is an important factor in regional climate variability and change around the globe(1,2). The response of regional precipitation to global warming is spatially variable, and state-of-the-art model projections suffer large uncertainties in the geographic distribution of precipitation changes(3-5). Two views exist regarding tropical rainfall change: one predicts increased rainfall in presently rainy regions (wet-get-wetter)(6-8), and the other suggests increased rainfall where the rise in sea surface temperature exceeds the mean surface warming in the tropics (warmer-get-wetter)(9-12). Here we analyse simulations with 18 models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5), and present a unifying view for seasonal rainfall change. We find that the pattern of ocean warming induces ascending atmospheric flow at the Equator and subsidence on the flanks, anchoring a band of annual mean rainfall increase near the Equator that reflects the warmer-get-wetter view. However, this climatological ascending motion marches back and forth across the Equator with the Sun, pumping moisture upwards from the boundary layer and causing seasonal rainfall anomalies to follow a wet-get-wetter pattern. The seasonal mean rainfall, which is the sum of the annual mean and seasonal anomalies, thus combines the wet-get-wetter and warmer-get-wetter trends. Given that precipitation climatology is well observed whereas the pattern of ocean surface warming is poorly constrained(13,14), our results suggest that projections of tropical seasonal mean rainfall are more reliable than the annual mean.

Maloney, ED, Xie SP.  2013.  Sensitivity of tropical intraseasonal variability to the pattern of climate warming. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems. 5:32-47.   10.1029/2012ms000171   AbstractWebsite

An aquaplanet general circulation model is used to assess the sensitivity of intraseasonal variability to the pattern of sea surface temperature (SST) warming. Three warming patterns are used. Projected SST warming at the end of the 21st century from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model 2.1 is one pattern, and zonally symmetric and globally uniform versions of this warming perturbation that have the same global mean SST change are the other two. Changes in intraseasonal variability are sensitive to the pattern of SST warming, with significant decreases in Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO)-timescale precipitation and wind variability for a zonally symmetric warming, and significant increases in MJO precipitation amplitude for a globally uniform warming. The amplitude of the wind variability change does not scale directly with precipitation, but is instead mediated by increased tropical dry static stability associated with SST warming. The patterned SST simulations have a zonal mean SST warming that maximizes on the equator, which fosters increased equatorial boundary layer convergence and also increases equatorial SST relative to the rest of the tropics. Both factors support increased convection, reflected in reduced gross moist stability (GMS). Mean precipitation is decreased and GMS is increased in the off-equatorial Eastern Hemisphere near 10 degrees S in the patterned warming simulations, where the strongest MJO-related intraseasonal precipitation variability is preferred in both the model and observations. It is argued that future changes in MJO activity may be sensitive to the pattern of SST warming, although these results should not be interpreted as a prediction of how MJO activity will change in future climate.

Feng, M, McPhaden MJ, Xie SP, Hafner J.  2013.  La Nina forces unprecedented Leeuwin Current warming in 2011. Scientific Reports. 3   10.1038/srep01277   AbstractWebsite

Unprecedented warm sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies were observed off the west coast of Australia in February-March 2011. Peak SST during a 2-week period were 5 degrees C warmer than normal, causing widespread coral bleaching and fish kills. Understanding the climatic drivers of this extreme event, which we dub "Ningaloo Nino", is crucial for predicting similar events under the influence of global warming. Here we use observational data and numerical models to demonstrate that the extreme warming was mostly driven by an unseasonable surge of the poleward-flowing Leeuwin Current in austral summer, which transported anomalously warm water southward along the coast. The unusual intensification of the Leeuwin Current was forced remotely by oceanic and atmospheric teleconnections associated with the extraordinary 2010-2011 La Nina. The amplitude of the warming was boosted by both multi-decadal trends in the Pacific toward more La Nina-like conditions and intraseasonal variations in the Indian Ocean.

Kosaka, Y, Xie SP, Lau NC, Vecchi GA.  2013.  Origin of seasonal predictability for summer climate over the Northwestern Pacific. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 110:7574-7579.   10.1073/pnas.1215582110   AbstractWebsite

Summer climate in the Northwestern Pacific (NWP) displays large year-to-year variability, affecting densely populated Southeast and East Asia by impacting precipitation, temperature, and tropical cyclones. The Pacific-Japan (PJ) teleconnection pattern provides a crucial link of high predictability from the tropics to East Asia. Using coupled climate model experiments, we show that the PJ pattern is the atmospheric manifestation of an air-sea coupled mode spanning the Indo-NWP warm pool. The PJ pattern forces the Indian Ocean (IO) via a westward propagating atmospheric Rossby wave. In response, IO sea surface temperature feeds back and reinforces the PJ pattern via a tropospheric Kelvin wave. Ocean coupling increases both the amplitude and temporal persistence of the PJ pattern. Cross-correlation of ocean-atmospheric anomalies confirms the coupled nature of this PJIO mode. The ocean-atmosphere feedback explains why the last echoes of El Nino-Southern Oscillation are found in the IO-NWP in the form of the PJIO mode. We demonstrate that the PJIO mode is indeed highly predictable; a characteristic that can enable benefits to society.

Xie, SP.  2013.  Advancing climate dynamics toward reliable regional climate projections. Journal of Ocean University of China. 12:191-200.   10.1007/s11802-013-2277-7   AbstractWebsite

With a scientific consensus reached regarding the anthropogenic effect on global mean temperature, developing reliable regional climate projections has emerged as a new challenge for climate science. A national project was launched in China in 2012 to study ocean's role in regional climate change. This paper starts with a review of recent advances in the study of regional climate response to global warming, followed by a description of the Chinese project including the rationale, objectives, and plan for field observations. The 15 research articles that follow in the special issue are highlighted, representing some of the initial results from the project.