Climate Dynamics

, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 1413–1430 | Cite as

Reduction of the thermocline feedback associated with mean SST bias in ENSO simulation

  • Baoqiang Xiang
  • Bin Wang
  • Qinghua Ding
  • Fei–Fei Jin
  • Xiouhua Fu
  • Hyung-Jin Kim


Associated with the double Inter-tropical convergence zone problem, a dipole SST bias pattern (cold in the equatorial central Pacific and warm in the southeast tropical Pacific) remains a common problem inherent in many contemporary coupled models. Based on a newly-developed coupled model, we performed a control run and two sensitivity runs, one is a coupled run with annual mean SST correction and the other is an ocean forced run. By comparison of these three runs, we demonstrated that a serious consequence of this SST bias is to severely suppress the thermocline feedback in a realistic simulation of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation. Firstly, the excessive cold tongue extension pushes the anomalous convection far westward from the equatorial central Pacific, prominently diminishing the convection-low level wind feedback and thus the air-sea coupling strength. Secondly, the equatorial surface wind anomaly exhibits a relatively uniform meridional structure with weak gradient, contributing to a weakened wind-thermocline feedback. Thirdly, the equatorial cold SST bias induces a weakened upper-ocean stratification and thus yields the underestimation of the thermocline-subsurface temperature feedback. Finally, the dipole SST bias underestimates the mean upwelling through (a) undermining equatorial mean easterly wind stress, and (b) enhancing convective mixing and thus reducing the upper ocean stratification, which weakens vertical shear of meridional currents and near-surface Ekman-divergence.


ENSO SST bias Thermocline feedback Air-sea coupling 



We wish to thank Drs. Tim Li, Niklas Schneider, Kevin P Hamilton for fruitful discussions and two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments. This work has been supported by the Climate Dynamics Program of the National Science Foundation under award No AGS-1005599, and APEC Climate Center. BW acknowledges partial support from International Pacific Research Center which is sponsored by the JAMSTEC, NASA (NNX07AG53G) and NOAA (NA09OAR4320075). QD acknowledges support from the Quaternary Research Center at the University of Washington. This is SOEST contribution number 8425 and IPRC contribution number 810.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Baoqiang Xiang
    • 1
  • Bin Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Qinghua Ding
    • 3
  • Fei–Fei Jin
    • 1
  • Xiouhua Fu
    • 2
  • Hyung-Jin Kim
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of MeteorologySchool of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA
  3. 3.Department of Earth and Space SciencesQuaternary Research Center, University of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  4. 4.Research Institute for Global Change, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and TechnologyKanagawaJapan

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