333 research outputs found

    Intrinsic unpredictability of strong El Ni\~no events

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    The El Ni\~no-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a mode of interannual variability in the coupled equatorial ocean/atmosphere Pacific. El Ni\~no describes a state in which sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific increase and upwelling of colder, deep waters diminishes. El Ni\~no events typically peak in boreal winter, but their strength varies irregularly on decadal time scales. There were exceptionally strong El Ni\~no events in 1982-83, 1997-98 and 2015-16 that affected weather on a global scale. Widely publicized forecasts in 2014 predicted that the 2015-16 event would occur a year earlier. Predicting the strength of El Ni\~no is a matter of practical concern due to its effects on hydroclimate and agriculture around the world. This paper presents a new robust mechanism limiting the predictability of strong ENSO events: the existence of an irregular switching between an oscillatory state that has strong El Ni\~no events and a chaotic state that lacks strong events, which can be induced by very weak seasonal forcing or noise.Comment: 4 pages, 6 figure

    Northern Hemisphere interdecadal variability: A coupled air-sea mode

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    A coupled air–sea mode in the Northern Hemisphere with a period of about 35 years is described. The mode was derived from a multicentury integration with a coupled ocean–atmosphere general circulation model and involves interactions of the thermohaline circulation with the atmosphere in the North Atlantic and interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere in the North Pacific. The authors focus on the physics of the North Atlantic interdecadal variability. If, for instance, the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation is anomalously strong, the ocean is covered by positive sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies. The atmospheric response to these SST anomalies involves a strengthened North Atlantic Oscillation, which leads to anomalously weak evaporation and Ekman transport off Newfoundland and in the Greenland Sea, and the generation of negative sea surface salinity (SSS) anomalies. These SSS anomalies weaken the deep convection in the oceanic sinking regions and subsequently the strength of the thermohaline circulation. This leads to a reduced poleward heat transport and the formation of negative SST anomalies, which completes the phase reversal. The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans seem to be coupled via an atmospheric teleconnection pattern and the interdecadal Northern Hemispheric climate mode is interpreted as an inherently coupled air–sea mode. Furthermore, the origin of the Northern Hemispheric warming observed recently is investigated. The observed temperatures are compared to a characteristic warming pattern derived from a greenhouse warming simulation with the authors’ coupled general circulation model and also with the Northern Hemispheric temperature pattern associated with the 35-yr climate mode. It is shown that the recent Northern Hemispheric warming projects well onto the temperature pattern of the interdecadal mode under consideration

    Coherent Resonat millenial-scale climate transitions triggered by massive meltwater pulses

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    The role of mean and stochastic freshwater forcing on the generation of millennial-scale climate variability in the North Atlantic is studied using a low-order coupled atmosphere–ocean–sea ice model. It is shown that millennial-scale oscillations can be excited stochastically, when the North Atlantic Ocean is fresh enough. This finding is used in order to interpret the aftermath of massive iceberg surges (Heinrich events) in the glacial North Atlantic, which are characterized by an excitation of Dansgaard–Oeschger events. Based on model results, it is hypothesized that Heinrich events trigger Dansgaard–Oeschger cycles and that furthermore the occurrence of Heinrich events is dependent on the accumulated climatic effect of a series of Dansgaard–Oeschger events. This scenario leads to a coupled ocean–ice sheet oscillation that shares many similarities with the Bond cycle. Further sensitivity experiments reveal that the timescale of the oscillations can be decomposed into stochastic, linear, and nonlinear deterministic components. A schematic bifurcation diagram is used to compare theoretical results with paleoclimatic data

    Cyclic Markov chains with an application to an intermediate ENSO model

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    We develop the theory of cyclic Markov chains and apply it to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) predictability problem. At the core of Markov chain modelling is a partition of the state space such that the transition rates between different state space cells can be computed and used most efficiently. We apply a partition technique, which divides the state space into multidimensional cells containing an equal number of data points. This partition leads to mathematical properties of the transition matrices which can be exploited further such as to establish connections with the dynamical theory of unstable periodic orbits. We introduce the concept of most and least predictable states. The data basis of our analysis consists of a multicentury-long data set obtained from an intermediate coupled atmosphere-ocean model of the tropical Pacific. This cyclostationary Markov chain approach captures the spring barrier in ENSO predictability and gives insight also into the dependence of ENSO predictability on the climatic state

    ENSO suppression due to weakening of the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation

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    Changes of the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation (THC) excite wave patterns that readjust the thermocline globally. This paper examines the impact of a freshwater-induced THC shutdown on the depth of the Pacific thermocline and its subsequent modification of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability using an intermediate-complexity global coupled atmosphere–ocean–sea ice model and an intermediate ENSO model, respectively. It is shown by performing a numerical eigenanalysis and transient simulations that a THC shutdown in the North Atlantic goes along with reduced ENSO variability because of a deepening of the zonal mean tropical Pacific thermocline. A transient simulation also exhibits abrupt changes of ENSO behavior, depending on the rate of THC change. The global oceanic wave adjustment mechanism is shown to play a key role also on multidecadal time scales. Simulated multidecadal global sea surface temperature (SST) patterns show a large degree of similarity with previous climate reconstructions, suggesting that the observed pan-oceanic variability on these time scales is brought about by oceanic waves and by atmospheric teleconnections

    Changes of ENSO Stability due to Greenhouse Warming

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    Based on a Coupled General Circulation Model (CGCM) simulation we study the influence of anthropogenic greenhouse warming on the stability of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation phenomenon (ENSO). The linear stability of such a complex model cannot be assessed directly, hence we will derive empirical low order models for ENSO from the CGCM simulation under consideration. These models capture essential features of ENSO and are sensitive also to temporal changes in ENSO statistics. An eigenvalue analysis of these reduced models reveals that as greenhouse warming progresses a transition takes place from a stable oscillatory behavior to an unstable oscillation. This transition coincides with an abrupt change in simulated ENSO activity and can be explained in terms of changing ocean dynamics

    Biophysical feedbacks in the tropical Pacific

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    This study explores the influence of phytoplankton on the tropical Pacific heat budget. A hybrid coupled model for the tropical Pacific that is based on a primitive equation reduced-gravity multilayer ocean model, a dynamic ocean mixed layer, an atmospheric mixed layer, and a statistical atmosphere is used. The statistical atmosphere relates deviations of the sea surface temperature from its mean to wind stress anomalies and allows for the rectification of the annual cycle and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon through the positive Bjerknes feedback. Furthermore, a nine-component ecosystem model is coupled to the physical variables of the ocean. The simulated chlorophyll concentrations can feed back onto the ocean heat budget by their optical properties, which modify solar light absorption in the surface layers. It is shown that both the surface layer concentration as well as the vertical profile of chlorophyll have a significant effect on the simulated mean state, the tropical annual cycle, and ENSO. This study supports a previously suggested hypothesis (Timmermann and Jin) that predicts an influence of phytoplankton concentration of the tropical Pacific climate mean state and its variability. The bioclimate feedback diagnosed here works as follows: Maxima in the subsurface chlorophyll concentrations lead to an enhanced subsurface warming due to the absorption of photosynthetically available shortwave radiation. This warming triggers a deepening of the mixed layer in the eastern equatorial Pacific and eventually a reduction of the surface ocean currents (Murtugudde et al.). The weakened south-equatorial current generates an eastern Pacific surface warming, which is strongly enhanced by the Bjerknes feedback. Because of the deepening of the mixed layer, the strength of the simulated annual cycle is also diminished. This in turn leads to an increase in ENSO variability

    Effects of salt compensation on the climate model response in simulations of large changes of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation

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    Freshwater hosing experiments with a comprehensive coupled climate model and a coupled model of intermediate complexity are performed with and without global salt compensation in order to investigate the robustness of the bipolar seesaw. In both cases, a strong reduction of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation is induced, and a warming in the South Atlantic results. When a globally uniform salt flux is applied at the surface in order to keep the global mean salinity constant, this causes additional widespread warming in the Southern Ocean. It is shown that this warming is mainly due to heat transport anomalies that are induced by the specific parameterization in ocean models to represent eddy mixing. Surface salt fluxes tend to move outcropping isopycnals equatorward. As the density perturbation originates at the surface, changes in isopycnal slopes are generated that lead to anomalies in the bolus velocity field. The associated bolus heat flux convergence creates a warming enhancing the bipolar seesaw response, particularly in the Southern Ocean. The importance of this mechanism is illustrated in coupled model simulations in which this parameterization in the ocean model component is switched on or off. Additional experiments in which the same total amount of freshwater is delivered at rates 10 times smaller show that the effect of the global salt compensation is not important in this case, but that the eddy-mixing parameterization is still responsible for a substantial temperature response in the Southern Ocean

    Is the wind-stress forcing essential for the meridional overturning circulation?

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    We use a global coupled atmosphere‐ocean sea‐ice model of intermediate complexity to demonstrate that wind‐forcing is a crucial element to sustain meridional overturning flow in the Atlantic. Neglecting wind‐stress in our multi‐century‐long simulations leads to a complete shutdown of the conveyor belt circulation. This result may have tremendous impacts for an assessment of the sensitivity of 2‐d climate models which typically do not capture wind‐driven gyres. It is argued that wind effects may be a key element in determining the fate and length of a collapsed THC state. Possible paleo implications will be discussed