Climate Dynamics

, Volume 36, Issue 5–6, pp 867–890 | Cite as

Intraseasonal variability in the far-east pacific: investigation of the role of air–sea coupling in a regional coupled model

  • R. Justin Small
  • Shang-Ping Xie
  • Eric D. Maloney
  • Simon P. de Szoeke
  • Toru Miyama


Intraseasonal variability in the eastern Pacific warm pool in summer is studied, using a regional ocean–atmosphere model, a linear baroclinic model (LBM), and satellite observations. The atmospheric component of the model is forced by lateral boundary conditions from reanalysis data. The aim is to quantify the importance to atmospheric deep convection of local air–sea coupling. In particular, the effect of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies on surface heat fluxes is examined. Intraseasonal (20–90 day) east Pacific warm-pool zonal wind and outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) variability in the regional coupled model are correlated at 0.8 and 0.6 with observations, respectively, significant at the 99% confidence level. The strength of the intraseasonal variability in the coupled model, as measured by the variance of outgoing longwave radiation, is close in magnitude to that observed, but with a maximum located about 10° further west. East Pacific warm pool intraseasonal convection and winds agree in phase with those from observations, suggesting that remote forcing at the boundaries associated with the Madden–Julian oscillation determines the phase of intraseasonal convection in the east Pacific warm pool. When the ocean model component is replaced by weekly reanalysis SST in an atmosphere-only experiment, there is a slight improvement in the location of the highest OLR variance. Further sensitivity experiments with the regional atmosphere-only model in which intraseasonal SST variability is removed indicate that convective variability has only a weak dependence on the SST variability, but a stronger dependence on the climatological mean SST distribution. A scaling analysis confirms that wind speed anomalies give a much larger contribution to the intraseasonal evaporation signal than SST anomalies, in both model and observations. A LBM is used to show that local feedbacks would serve to amplify intraseasonal convection and the large-scale circulation. Further, Hovmöller diagrams reveal that whereas a significant dynamic intraseasonal signal enters the model domain from the west, the strong deep convection mostly arises within the domain. Taken together, the regional and linear model results suggest that in this region remote forcing and local convection–circulation feedbacks are both important to the intraseasonal variability, but ocean–atmosphere coupling has only a small effect. Possible mechanisms of remote forcing are discussed.


Intraseasonal variability Madden–Julian oscillation East Pacific Climate Tropical meteorology Air–sea interaction Coupled models Regional models 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Justin Small
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shang-Ping Xie
    • 2
    • 3
  • Eric D. Maloney
    • 4
  • Simon P. de Szoeke
    • 5
  • Toru Miyama
    • 6
  1. 1.Jacobs TechnologyNaval Research LaboratoryStennis Space CenterUSA
  2. 2.International Pacific Research CenterUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA
  3. 3.Department of Meteorology, School of Ocean and Earth Science and TechnologyUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA
  4. 4.Department of Atmospheric ScienceColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  5. 5.College of Oceanic and Atmospheric SciencesOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  6. 6.Frontier Research for Global ChangeYokohamaJapan

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