Publications

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2017
Yang, Y, Xie SP, Wu LX, Kosaka Y, Li JP.  2017.  Causes of enhanced sst variability over the equatorial atlantic and its relationship to the Atlantic Zonal Mode in CMIP5. Journal of Climate. 30:6171-6182.   10.1175/jcli-d-16-0866.1   AbstractWebsite

A spurious band of enhanced sea surface temperature (SST) variance (SBEV) is identified over the northern equatorial Atlantic in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) Climate Model, version 2.1. The SBEV is especially pronounced in boreal spring owing to the combined effect of both anomalous atmospheric thermal forcing and oceanic vertical upwelling. The SBEV is a common bias in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5), found in 14 out of 23 models. The SBEV in CMIP5 is associated with the atmospheric thermal forcing and the oceanic vertical upwelling, similar to GFDL CM2.1. While the tropical North Atlantic variability is only weakly correlated with the Atlantic zonal mode (AZM) in observations, the SBEV in CMIP5 produces conditions that drive and intensify the AZM variability via triggering the Bjerknes feedback. This partially explains why AZM is strong in some CMIP5 models even though the equatorial cold tongue and easterly trades are biased low.

2016
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.

2015
Wang, GH, Xie SP, Huang RX, Chen CL.  2015.  Robust warming pattern of global subtropical oceans and its mechanism. Journal of Climate. 28:8574-8584.   10.1175/jcli-d-14-00809.1   AbstractWebsite

The subsurface ocean response to anthropogenic climate forcing remains poorly characterized. From the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP), a robust response of the lower thermocline is identified, where the warming is considerably weaker in the subtropics than in the tropics and high latitudes. The lower thermocline change is inversely proportional to the thermocline depth in the present climatology. Ocean general circulation model (OGCM) experiments show that sea surface warming is the dominant forcing for the subtropical gyre change in contrast to natural variability for which wind dominates, and the ocean response is insensitive to the spatial pattern of surface warming. An analysis based on a ventilated thermocline model shows that the pattern of the lower thermocline change can be interpreted in terms of the dynamic response to the strengthened stratification and downward heat mixing. Consequently, the subtropical gyres become intensified at the surface but weakened in the lower thermcline, consistent with results from CMIP experiments.

2014
Xu, LX, Xie SP, McClean JL, Liu QY, Sasaki H.  2014.  Mesoscale eddy effects on the subduction of North Pacific mode waters. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 119:4867-4886.   10.1002/2014jc009861   AbstractWebsite

Mesoscale eddy effects on the subduction of North Pacific mode waters are investigated by comparing observations and ocean general circulation models where eddies are either parameterized or resolved. The eddy-resolving models produce results closer to observations than the noneddy-resolving model. There are large discrepancies in subduction patterns between eddy-resolving and noneddy-resolving models. In the noneddy-resolving model, subduction on a given isopycnal is limited to the cross point between the mixed layer depth (MLD) front and the outcrop line whereas in eddy-resolving models and observations, subduction takes place in a broader, zonally elongated band within the deep mixed layer region. Mesoscale eddies significantly enhance the total subduction rate, helping create remarkable peaks in the volume histogram that correspond to North Pacific subtropical mode water (STMW) and central mode water (CMW). Eddy-enhanced subduction preferentially occurs south of the winter mean outcrop. With an anticyclonic eddy to the west and a cyclonic eddy to the east, the outcrop line meanders south, and the thermocline/MLD shoals eastward. As eddies propagate westward, the MLD shoals, shielding the water of low potential vorticity from the atmosphere. The southward eddy flow then carries the subducted water mass into the thermocline. The eddy subduction processes revealed here have important implications for designing field observations and improving models.

Liu, JW, Xie SP, Norris JR, Zhang SP.  2014.  Low-level cloud response to the Gulf Stream front in winter using CALIPSO. Journal of Climate. 27:4421-4432.   10.1175/jcli-d-13-00469.1   AbstractWebsite

A sharp sea surface temperature front develops between the warm water of the Gulf Stream and cold continental shelf water in boreal winter. This front has a substantial impact on the marine boundary layer. The present study analyzes and synthesizes satellite observations and reanalysis data to examine how the sea surface temperature front influences the three-dimensional structure of low-level clouds. The Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) satellite captures a sharp low-level cloud transition across the Gulf Stream front, a structure frequently observed under the northerly condition. Low-level cloud top (<4 km) increases by about 500 m from the cold to the warm flank of the front. The sea surface temperature front induces a secondary low-level circulation through sea level pressure adjustment with ascending motion over the warm water and descending motion over cold water. The secondary circulation further contributes to the cross-frontal transition of low-level clouds. Composite analysis shows that surface meridional advection over the front plays an important role in the development of the marine atmospheric boundary layer and low-level clouds. Under cold northerly advection over the Gulf Stream front, strong near-surface instability leads to a well-mixed boundary layer over the Gulf Stream, causing southward deepening of low-level clouds across the sea surface temperature front. Moreover, the front affects the freezing level by transferring heat to the atmosphere and therefore influences the cross-frontal variation of the cloud phase.

Li, G, Xie SP.  2014.  Tropical Biases in CMIP5 Multimodel Ensemble: The Excessive Equatorial Pacific Cold Tongue and Double ITCZ Problems. Journal of Climate. 27:1765-1780.   10.1175/jcli-d-13-00337.1   AbstractWebsite

Errors of coupled general circulation models (CGCMs) limit their utility for climate prediction and projection. Origins of and feedback for tropical biases are investigated in the historical climate simulations of 18 CGCMs from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5), together with the available Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) simulations. Based on an intermodel empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis of tropical Pacific precipitation, the excessive equatorial Pacific cold tongue and double intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) stand out as the most prominent errors of the current generation of CGCMs. The comparison of CMIP-AMIP pairs enables us to identify whether a given type of errors originates from atmospheric models. The equatorial Pacific cold tongue bias is associated with deficient precipitation and surface easterly wind biases in the western half of the basin in CGCMs, but these errors are absent in atmosphere-only models, indicating that the errors arise from the interaction with the ocean via Bjerknes feedback. For the double ITCZ problem, excessive precipitation south of the equator correlates well with excessive downward solar radiation in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) midlatitudes, an error traced back to atmospheric model simulations of cloud during austral spring and summer. This extratropical forcing of the ITCZ displacements is mediated by tropical ocean-atmosphere interaction and is consistent with recent studies of ocean-atmospheric energy transport balance.