Publications

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2018
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.

Amaya, DJ, Siler N, Xie SP, Miller AJ.  2018.  The interplay of internal and forced modes of Hadley Cell expansion: lessons from the global warming hiatus. Climate Dynamics. 51:305-319.   10.1007/s00382-017-3921-5   AbstractWebsite

The poleward branches of the Hadley Cells and the edge of the tropics show a robust poleward shift during the satellite era, leading to concerns over the possible encroachment of the globe's subtropical dry zones into currently temperate climates. The extent to which this trend is caused by anthropogenic forcing versus internal variability remains the subject of considerable debate. In this study, we use a Joint EOF method to identify two distinct modes of tropical width variability: (1) an anthropogenically-forced mode, which we identify using a 20-member simulation of the historical climate, and (2) an internal mode, which we identify using a 1000-year pre-industrial control simulation. The forced mode is found to be closely related to the top of the atmosphere radiative imbalance and exhibits a long-term trend since 1860, while the internal mode is essentially indistinguishable from the El Nio Southern Oscillation. Together these two modes explain an average of 70% of the interannual variability seen in model "edge indices" over the historical period. Since 1980, the superposition of forced and internal modes has resulted in a period of accelerated Hadley Cell expansion and decelerated global warming (i.e., the "hiatus"). A comparison of the change in these modes since 1980 indicates that by 2013 the signal has emerged above the noise of internal variability in the Southern Hemisphere, but not in the Northern Hemisphere, with the latter also exhibiting strong zonal asymmetry, particularly in the North Atlantic. Our results highlight the important interplay of internal and forced modes of tropical width change and improve our understanding of the interannual variability and long-term trend seen in observations.

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.

2016
Meehl, GA, Hu AX, Santer BD, Xie SP.  2016.  Contribution of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation to twentieth-century global surface temperature trends. Nature Climate Change. 6:1005-1008.   10.1038/nclimate3107   AbstractWebsite

Longer-term externally forced trends in global mean surface temperatures (GMSTs) are embedded in the background noise of internally generated multidecadal variability(1). A key mode of internal variability is the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO), which contributed to a reduced GMST trend during the early 2000s(1-3). We use a novel, physical phenomenon-based approach to quantify the contribution from a source of internally generated multidecadal variability-the IPO-to multidecadal GMST trends. Here we show that the largest IPO contributions occurred in its positive phase during the rapidwarming periods from 1910-1941 and 1971-1995, with the IPO contributing 71% and 75%, respectively, to the difference between the median values of the externally forced trends and observed trends. The IPO transition from positive to negative in the late-1990s contributed 27% of the discrepancy between model median estimates of the forced part of the GMST trend and the observed trend from 1995 to 2013, with additional contributions that are probably due to internal variability outside of the Pacific(4) and an externally forced response from small volcanic eruptions(5). Understanding and quantifying the contribution of a specific source of internally generated variability-the IPO-to GMST trends is necessary to improve decadal climate prediction skill.

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.

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.