Publications

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2018
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.

Zhou, ZQ, Xie SP, Zhang GJ, Zhou WY.  2018.  Evaluating AMIP Skill in Simulating Interannual Variability over the Indo-Western Pacific. Journal of Climate. 31:2253-2265.   10.1175/jcli-d-17-0123.1   AbstractWebsite

Local correlation between sea surface temperature (SST) and rainfall is weak or even negative in summer over the Indo-western Pacific warm pool, a fact often taken as indicative of weak ocean feedback on the atmosphere. An Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) simulation forced by monthly varying SSTs derived from a parallel coupled general circulation model (CGCM) run is used to evaluate AMIP skills in simulating interannual variability of rainfall. Local correlation of rainfall variability between AMIP and CGCMsimulations is used as a direct metric of AMIP skill. This "perfect model'' approach sidesteps the issue of model biases that complicates the traditional skill metric based on the correlation between AMIP and observations. Despite weak local SST-rainfall correlation, the AMIP-CGCM rainfall correlation exceeds a 95% significance level over most of the Indo-western Pacific warm pool, indicating the importance of remote (e.g., El Nino in the equatorial Pacific) rather than local SST forcing. Indeed, the AMIP successfully reproduces large-scale modes of rainfall variability over the Indo-western Pacific warm pool. Compared to the northwest Pacific east of the Philippines, the AMIP-CGCMrainfall correlation is low from the Bay of Bengal through the South China Sea, limited by internal variability of the atmosphere that is damped in CGCM by negative feedback from the ocean. Implications for evaluating AMIP skill in simulating observations are discussed.

2017
Wang, CY, Xie SP, Kosaka Y, Liu QY, Zheng XT.  2017.  Global influence of tropical Pacific variability with implications for global warming slowdown. Journal of Climate. 30:2679-2695.   10.1175/jcli-d-15-0496.1   AbstractWebsite

The impact of internal tropical Pacific variability on global mean surface temperature (GMST) is quantified using a multimodel ensemble. A tropical Pacific index (TPI) is defined to track tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) variability. The simulated GMST is highly correlated with TPI on the interannual time scale but this correlation weakens on the decadal time scale. The time-scale dependency is such that the GMST regression equation derived from the observations, which are dominated by interannual variability, would underestimate the magnitude of decadal GMST response to tropical Pacific variability. The surface air temperature response to tropical Pacific variability is strong in the tropics but weakens in the extratropics. The regression coefficient of GMST against TPI shows considerable intermodel variations, primarily because of differences in high latitudes. The results have important implications for the planned intercomparison of pacemaker experiments that force Pacific variability to follow the observed evolution. The model dependency of the GMST regression suggests that in pacemaker experiments-model performance in simulating the recent "slowdown'' in global warming-will vary substantially among models. It also highlights the need to develop observational constraints and to quantify the TPI effect on the decadal variability of GMST. Compared to GMST, the correlation between global mean tropospheric temperature and TPI is high on both interannual and decadal time scales because of a common structure in the tropical tropospheric temperature response that is upward amplified and meridionally broad.

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.

Feng, M, Hendon HH, Xie SP, Marshall AG, Schiller A, Kosaka Y, Caputi N, Pearce A.  2015.  Decadal increase in Ningaloo Nino since the late 1990s. Geophysical Research Letters. 42:104-112.   10.1002/2014gl062509   AbstractWebsite

Ningaloo Nino refers to the episodic occurrence of anomalously warm ocean conditions along the subtropical coast of Western Australia (WA). Ningaloo Nino typically develops in austral spring, peaks in summer, and decays in autumn, and it often occurs in conjunction with La Nina conditions in the Pacific which promote poleward transport of warm tropical waters by the Leeuwin Current. Since the late 1990s, there has been a marked increase in the occurrence of Ningaloo Nino, which is likely related to the recent swing to the negative phase of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) and enhanced El Nino-Southern Oscillation variance since 1970s. The swing to the negative IPO sustains positive heat content anomalies and initiates more frequent cyclonic wind anomalies off the WA coast so favoring enhanced poleward heat transport by the Leeuwin Current. The anthropogenically forced global warming has made it easier for natural variability to drive extreme ocean temperatures in the region.