Ocean–atmosphere coupled Pacific Decadal variability simulated by a climate model

Luo H, Zheng F, Keenlyside N, Zhu J. 2020: Ocean–atmosphere coupled Pacific Decadal variability simulated by a climate model. Clim Dyn. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-020-05248-9 .

Summary: Currently, the mechanisms for Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) are still disputed, and in particular the atmosphere response to the ocean in the mid-latitude remains a key uncertainty. In this study, we investigate two potential feedbacks—a local positive and a delayed negative—for the PDO based on a long-term control simulation using the ECHAM5/MPI-OM coupled model, which is selected because of reproduces well the variability of PDO. The positive feedback is as follows. In the PDO positive phase, the meridional sea surface temperature (SST) gradient is intensified and this strengthens the lower level atmospheric baroclinicity in the mid-latitudes, leading to the enhancement of Aleutian low and zonal wind. These atmospheric changes reinforce the meridional SST temperature gradient through the divergence of ocean surface currents. The increased heat flux loss over the anomalously warm water and decreased heat flux loss over the anomalously cold water in turn reinforce the lower atmospheric meridional temperature gradient, baroclinicity and atmospheric circulation anomalies, forming a local positive feedback for the PDO. The delayed negative feedback arises, because the intensified meridional SST gradient also generates an anticyclonic wind stress in the central North Pacific, warming the upper ocean by Ekman convergence. The warm upper ocean anomalies then propagate westward and are transported to the mid-latitudes in the western North Pacific by the western boundary current. This finally reduces the meridional SST gradient, 18 years after the peak PDO phase. These results demonstrate the significant contributions of the meridional SST gradient to the PDO’s evolution.

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