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Kang, SM, Held IM, Xie SP.  2014.  Contrasting the tropical responses to zonally asymmetric extratropical and tropical thermal forcing. Climate Dynamics. 42:2033-2043.   10.1007/s00382-013-1863-0   AbstractWebsite

The mechanism is investigated by which extratropical thermal forcing with a finite zonal extent produces global impact. The goal is to understand the near-global response to a weakened Atlantic meridional overturning circulation suggested by paleoclimate data and modeling studies. An atmospheric model coupled to an aquaplanet slab mixed layer ocean, in which the unperturbed climate is zonally symmetric, is perturbed by prescribing cooling of the mixed layer in the Northern Hemisphere and heating of equal magnitude in the Southern Hemisphere, over some finite range of longitudes. In the case of heating/cooling confined to the extratropics, the zonally asymmetric forcing is homogenized by midlatitude westerlies and extratropical eddies before passing on to the tropics, inducing a zonally symmetric tropical response. In addition, the zonal mean responses vary little as the zonal extent of the forced region is changed, holding the zonal mean heating fixed, implying little impact of stationary eddies on the zonal mean. In contrast, when the heating/cooling is confined to the tropics, the zonally asymmetric forcing produces a highly localized response with slight westward extension, due to advection by mean easterly trade winds. Regardless of the forcing location, neither the spatial structure nor the zonal mean responses are strongly affected by wind-evaporation-sea surface temperature feedback.

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.

Li, JB, Xie SP, Cook ER.  2014.  El Nino phases embedded in Asian and North American drought reconstructions. Quaternary Science Reviews. 85:20-34.   10.1016/j.quascirev.2013.11.014   AbstractWebsite

The amplitude of El Nil-ID-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) varies substantially at each phase of its evolution, affecting the timing and patterns of atmospheric teleconnections around the globe. Instrumental records are too short to capture the full behavior of ENSO variability. Here we use the well-validated Monsoon Asia Drought Atlas (MADA) and North America Drought Atlas (NADA) for the past 700 years, and show that tree-ring records from different regions represent tropical sea surface temperature (SST) conditions at various phases of ENSO. Three modes of tree-ring based summer drought variability are found to be correlated with ENSO: summer droughts over the Maritime Continent and Southwest North America (NA), and a dipole mode between Central and South Asia. A lagged correlation analysis is performed to determine the time when precipitation and temperature anomaly imprints on summer droughts as recorded in tree-rings. Drought anomalies in the Maritime Continent and Southwest NA represent ENSO at the developing and peak phases respectively, while those over Central/South Asia are associated with tropical-wide SST anomalies (including the Indian Ocean) at the decay phase of ENSO. Thus proxy records from different regions can provide valuable information on long-term behavior of ENSO at different phases. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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.

Li, JB, Xie SP, Cook ER, Morales MS, Christie DA, Johnson NC, Chen FH, D'Arrigo R, Fowler AM, Gou XH, Fang KY.  2013.  El Nino modulations over the past seven centuries. Nature Climate Change. 3:822-826.   10.1038/nclimate1936   AbstractWebsite

Predicting how the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) will change with global warming is of enormous importance to society(1-4). ENSO exhibits considerable natural variability at interdecadal-centennial timescales(5). Instrumental records are too short to determine whether ENSO has changed(6) and existing reconstructions are often developed without adequate tropical records. Here we present a seven-century-long ENSO reconstruction based on 2,222 tree-ring chronologies from both the tropics and mid-latitudes in both hemispheres. The inclusion of tropical records enables us to achieve unprecedented accuracy, as attested by high correlations with equatorial Pacific corals(7,8) and coherent modulation of global teleconnections that are consistent with an independent Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstruction(9). Our data indicate that ENSO activity in the late twentieth century was anomalously high over the past seven centuries, suggestive of a response to continuing global warming. Climate models disagree on the ENSO response to global warming(3,4), suggesting that many models underestimate the sensitivity to radiative perturbations. Illustrating the radiative effect, our reconstruction reveals a robust ENSO response to large tropical eruptions, with anomalous cooling in the east-central tropical Pacific in the year of eruption, followed by anomalous warming one year after. Our observations provide crucial constraints for improving climate models and their future projections.

Zheng, XT, Xie SP, Du Y, Liu L, Huang G, Liu QY.  2013.  Indian Ocean dipole response to global warming in the CMIP5 multimodel ensemble. Journal of Climate. 26:6067-6080.   10.1175/jcli-d-12-00638.1   AbstractWebsite

The response of the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) mode to global warming is investigated based on simulations from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). In response to increased greenhouse gases, an IOD-like warming pattern appears in the equatorial Indian Ocean, with reduced (enhanced) warming in the east (west), an easterly wind trend, and thermocline shoaling in the east. Despite a shoaling thermocline and strengthened thermocline feedback in the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean, the interannual variance of the IOD mode remains largely unchanged in sea surface temperature (SST) as atmospheric feedback and zonal wind variance weaken under global warming. The negative skewness in eastern Indian Ocean SST is reduced as a result of the shoaling thermocline. The change in interannual IOD variance exhibits some variability among models, and this intermodel variability is correlated with the change in thermocline feedback. The results herein illustrate that mean state changes modulate interannual modes, and suggest that recent changes in the IOD mode are likely due to natural variations.

Zhou, ZQ, Xie SP, Zheng XT, Liu QY.  2013.  Indian Ocean Dipole response to global warming: A multi-member study with CCSM4. Journal of Ocean University of China. 12:209-215.   10.1007/s11802-013-2200-2   AbstractWebsite

Based on a coupled ocean-atmosphere model, the response of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) mode to global warming is investigated with a six member ensemble of simulations for the period 1850-2100. The model can simulate the IOD features realistically, including the east-west dipole pattern and the phase locking in boreal autumn. The ensemble analysis suppresses internal variability and isolates the radiative forced response. In response to increasing greenhouse gases, a weakening of the Walker circulation leads to the easterly wind anomalies in the equatorial Indian Ocean and the shoaling thermocline in the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean (EEIO), and sea surface temperature and precipitation changes show an IOD-like pattern in the equatorial Indian Ocean. Although the thermocline feedback intensifies with shoaling, the interannual variability of the IOD mode surprisingly weakens under global warming. The zonal wind feedback of IOD is found to weaken as well, due to decreased precipitation in the EEIO. Therefore, the atmospheric feedback decreases much more than the oceanic feedback increases, causing the decreased IOD variance in this model.

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.