Climate Dynamics

, Volume 25, Issue 2–3, pp 155–170 | Cite as

Roles of Indian and Pacific Ocean air–sea coupling in tropical atmospheric variability

  • Renguang WuEmail author
  • Ben P. Kirtman


Sea surface temperature (SST) variations include negative feedbacks from the atmosphere, whereas SST anomalies are specified in stand-alone atmospheric general circulation simulations. Is the SST forced response the same as the coupled response? In this study, the importance of air–sea coupling in the Indian and Pacific Oceans for tropical atmospheric variability is investigated through numerical experiments with a coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model. The local and remote impacts of the Indian and Pacific Ocean coupling are obtained by comparing a coupled simulation with an experiment in which the SST forcing from the coupled simulation is specified in either the Indian or the Pacific Ocean. It is found that the Indian Ocean coupling is critical for atmospheric variability over the Pacific Ocean. Without the Indian Ocean coupling, the rainfall and SST variations are completely different throughout most of the Pacific Ocean basin. Without the Pacific Ocean coupling, part of the rainfall and SST variations in the Indian Ocean are reproduced in the forced run. In regions of large mean rainfall where the atmospheric negative feedback is strong, such as the North Indian Ocean and the western North Pacific in boreal summer, the atmospheric variability is significantly enhanced when air–sea coupling is replaced by specified SST forcing. This enhancement is due to the lack of the negative feedback in the forced SST simulation. In these regions, erroneous atmospheric anomalies could be induced by specified SST anomalies derived from the coupled model. The ENSO variability is reduced by about 20% when the Indian Ocean air–sea coupling is replaced by specified SST forcing. This change is attributed to the interfering roles of the Indian Ocean SST and Indian monsoon in western and central equatorial Pacific surface wind variations.


Indian Ocean North Indian Ocean Couple Simulation South Pacific Convergence Zone Couple General Circulation Model 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors thank David Straus, Harry Hendon, and one anonymous reviewer for their comments, which significantly improved the manuscript. This research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation ATM-9814295 and ATM-0122859, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration NA16-GP2248 and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration NAG5-11656.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Ocean Land Atmosphere StudiesCalvertonUSA
  2. 2.School for Computational SciencesGeorge Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia Center for Ocean Land Atmosphere StudiesCalvertonUSA

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