Date: 11 Jan 2014

Study on the “winter persistence barrier” of Indian Ocean dipole events using observation data and CMIP5 model outputs

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This study investigates the persistence barrier phenomenon associated with positive Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) events during the various phases of its development. The results derived from three observational datasets (the Simple Ocean Data Assimilation, International Comprehensive Ocean–Atmosphere Data Set, and Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature) indicate that significant winter persistence barriers (WPBs) occur during IOD events, both in its growing and decaying phases. The simulation skill of the 14 models within the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 with respect to persistence barriers was also evaluated and compared with observational data. The results show that although most models were able to simulate the WPB reasonably well during the growing phase, only five models could capture the appropriate WPB during the decaying phase. Further analysis demonstrates that the zonal equatorial gradient of climatological sea surface temperature (SST) and zonal sea surface winds at the equator in the Indian Ocean are very weak in winter, which indicates that the coupling between ocean and atmosphere is weakest in winter and encourages a rapid variation of IOD events and a swift reduction of persistence, favoring the occurrence of WPBs; furthermore, a deep climatological thermocline in winter implies that the subsurface water temperature cannot influence SST readily, and the memory of the subsurface temperature cannot help SST to recover from the loss of persistence during this period, leading to the occurrence of WPBs. In addition, an analysis of the climatological conditions in the outputs from the 14 models shows that those models that can (cannot) capture the winter climatological conditions frequently simulate the WPBs appropriately (poorly). This confirms that the occurrence of the WPB for IOD events may be closely related to particular winter climatological conditions, indicating that the WPB is an inherent property of IOD events.