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          Institute: MPI für Meteorologie     Collection: Ocean in the Earth System     Display Documents

ID: 377463.0, MPI für Meteorologie / Ocean in the Earth System
Subtropical forcing of Tropical Pacific climate and decadal ENSO modulation
Authors:Matei, D.; Keenlyside, N.; Latif, M.; Jungclaus, J.
Date of Publication (YYYY-MM-DD):2008
Title of Journal:Journal of Climate
Journal Abbrev.:J. Clim.
Start Page:4691
End Page:4709
Review Status:Peer-review
Audience:Not Specified
Abstract / Description:The relative impact of the subtropical North and South Pacific Oceans on the tropical Pacific climate mean state and variability is estimated using an ocean–atmosphere–sea ice coupled general circulation model. Tailored experiments are performed in which the model is forced by idealized sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs) in the subtropics of both hemispheres. The main results of this study suggest that subtropical South Pacific climate variations play a dominant role in tropical Pacific decadal variability and in the decadal modulation of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

In response to a 2°C warming in the subtropical South Pacific, the equatorial Pacific SST increases by about 0.6°C, approximately 65% larger than the change in the North Pacific experiment. The subtropics affect equatorial SST mainly through atmosphere–mixed layer interactions in the South Pacific experiments; the response is mostly accomplished within a decade. The “oceanic tunnel” dominates in the North Pacific experiments; the response takes at least 100 yr to be accomplished. Similar sensitivity experiments conducted with the stand-alone atmosphere model showed that both air–sea interactions and ocean dynamics are crucial in shaping the tropical climate response.

The statistics of ENSO exhibit significant changes in amplitude and frequency in response to a warming/cooling of the subtropical South Pacific: a 2°C warming (cooling) of subtropical South Pacific SST reduces (increases) the interannual standard deviation by about 30% (20%) and shortens (lengthens) the ENSO period. The simulated changes in the equatorial zonal SST gradient are the main contributor to the modulation of ENSO variability. The simulated intensification (weakening) of the annual cycle in response to an enhanced warming (cooling) in subtropical South Pacific partly explains the shifts in frequency, but may also lead to a weaker (stronger) ENSO. The subtropical North Pacific thermal forcing did not change the statistical properties of ENSO as strongly.
External Publication Status:published
Document Type:Article
Communicated by:Carola Kauhs
Affiliations:MPI für Meteorologie/Ocean in the Earth System
MPI für Meteorologie/IMPRS Earth System Modelling
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