Climate Dynamics

, Volume 28, Issue 7, pp 661–682

Evolution of model systematic errors in the Tropical Atlantic Basin from coupled climate hindcasts


DOI: 10.1007/s00382-006-0223-8

Cite this article as:
Huang, B., Hu, ZZ. & Jha, B. Clim Dyn (2007) 28: 661. doi:10.1007/s00382-006-0223-8


Significant systematic errors in the tropical Atlantic Ocean are common in state-of-the-art coupled ocean–atmosphere general circulation models. In this study, a set of ensemble hindcasts from the NCEP coupled forecast system (CFS) is used to examine the initial growth of the coupled model bias. These CFS hindcasts are 9-month integrations starting from perturbed real-time oceanic and atmospheric analyses for 1981–2003. The large number of integrations from a variety of initial states covering all months provides a good opportunity to examine how the model systematic errors grow. The monthly climatologies of ensemble hindcasts from various initial months are compared with both observed and analyzed oceanic and atmospheric datasets. Our analyses show that two error patterns are dominant in the hindcasts. One is the warming of the sea surface temperature (SST) in the southeastern tropical Atlantic Ocean. This error grows faster in boreal summer and fall and peaks in November–December at round 2°C in the open ocean. It is caused by an excessive model surface shortwave radiative flux in this region, especially from boreal summer to fall. The excessive radiative forcing is in turn caused by the CFS inability to reproduce the observed amount of low cloud cover in the southeastern ocean and its seasonal increase. According to a comparison between the seasonal climatologies from the CFS hindcasts and a long-term simulation of the atmospheric model forced with observed SST, the CFS low cloud and radiation errors are inherent to its atmospheric component. On the other hand, the SST error in CFS is a major cause of the model’s southward bias of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) in boreal winter and spring. An analysis of the SST errors of the 6-month ensemble hindcasts by seven coupled models in the Development of a European Multimodel Ensemble System for Seasonal-to-Interannual Prediction project shows that this SST error pattern is common in coupled climate hindcasts. The second error pattern is an excessive deepening of the model thermocline depth to the north of the equator from the western coast toward the central ocean. This error grows fastest in boreal summer. It is forced by an overly strong local anticyclonic surface wind stress curl and is in turn related to the weakened northeast trade winds in summer and fall. The thermocline error in the northwest delays the annual shoaling of the equatorial thermocline in the Gulf of Guinea remotely through the equatorial waveguide.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Climate Dynamics, College of ScienceGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere StudiesInstitute of Global Environment and SocietyCalvertonUSA
  3. 3.RSIS/Climate Prediction CenterNational Centers for Environmental Prediction/NOAACamp SpringsUSA