, Volume 30, Issue 7-8, pp 703-726
Date: 16 Oct 2007

Leading patterns of the tropical Atlantic variability in a coupled general circulation model

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Abstract

This paper examines the mean annual cycle, interannual variability, and leading patterns of the tropical Atlantic Ocean simulated in a long-term integration of the climate forecast system (CFS), a state-of-the-art coupled general circulation model presently used for operational climate prediction at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. By comparing the CFS simulation with corresponding observation-based analyses or reanalyses, it is shown that the CFS captures the seasonal mean climate, including the zonal gradients of sea surface temperature (SST) in the equatorial Atlantic Ocean, even though the CFS produces warm mean biases and underestimates the variability over the southeastern ocean. The seasonal transition from warm to cold phase along the equator is delayed 1 month in the CFS compared with the observations. This delay might be related to the failure of the model to simulate the cross-equatorial meridional wind associated with the African monsoon. The CFS also realistically simulates both the spatial structure and spectral distributions of the three major leading patterns of the SST anomalies in the tropical Atlantic Ocean: the south tropical Atlantic pattern (STA), the North tropical Atlantic pattern (NTA), and the southern subtropical Atlantic pattern (SSA). The CFS simulates the seasonal dependence of these patterns and partially reproduces their association with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. The dynamical and thermodynamical processes associated with these patterns in the simulation and the observations are similar. The air-sea interaction processes associated with the STA pattern are well simulated in the CFS. The primary feature of the anomalous circulation in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) associated with the NTA pattern resembles that in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) linked with the SSA pattern, implying a similarity of the mechanisms in the evolution of these patterns and their connection with the tropical and extratropical anomalies in their respective hemispheres. The anomalies associated with both the SSA and NTA patterns are dominated by atmospheric fluctuations of equivalent-barotropic structure in the extratropics including zonally symmetric and asymmetric components. The zonally symmetric variability is associated with the annular modes, the Arctic Oscillation in the NH and the Antarctic Oscillation in the SH. The zonally asymmetric part of the anomalies in the Atlantic is teleconnected with the anomalies over the tropical Pacific. The misplaced teleconnection center over the southern subtropical ocean may be one of the reasons for the deformation of the SSA pattern in the CFS.