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Wintertime atmospheric response to Atlantic multidecadal variability: effect of stratospheric representation and ocean–atmosphere coupling

Abstract

The impact of the Atlantic multidecadal variability (AMV) on the wintertime atmosphere circulation is investigated using three different configurations of the Community Atmospheric Model version 5 (CAM5). Realistic SST and sea ice anomalies associated with the AMV in observations are prescribed in CAM5 (low-top model) and WACCM5 (high-top model) to assess the dependence of the results on the representation of the stratosphere. In a third experiment, the role of ocean–atmosphere feedback is investigated by coupling CAM5 to a slab-ocean model in which the AMV forcing is prescribed through oceanic heat flux anomalies. The three experiments give consistent results concerning the response of the NAO in winter, with a negative NAO signal in response to a warming of the North Atlantic ocean. This response is found in early winter when the high-top model is used, and in late winter with the low-top model. With the slab-ocean, the negative NAO response is more persistent in winter and shifted eastward over the continent due to the damping of the atmospheric response over the North Atlantic ocean. Additional experiments suggest that both tropical and extratropical SST anomalies are needed to obtain a significant modulation of the NAO, with small influence of sea ice anomalies. Warm tropical SST anomalies induce a northward shift of the ITCZ and a Rossby-wave response that is reinforced in the mid-latitudes by the extratropical SST anomalies through eddy–mean flow interactions. This modeling study supports that the positive phase of the AMV promotes the negative NAO in winter, while illustrating the impacts of the stratosphere and of the ocean–atmosphere feedbacks in the spatial pattern and timing of this response.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by NSF Grant AGS-1407360. We acknowledge high-performance computing support from Yellowstone (ark:/85065/d7wd3xhc) provided by NCAR’s CISL, sponsored by the NSF. We are grateful to Noel Keenlyside, Nour-Eddine Omrani, Clara Deser and Lantao Sun for valuable discussions that have helped us better interpret the results of our experiments. Thanks are also due to Yi-Hui Wang for testing CAM with the slab ocean configuration. We finally thank two anonymous reviewers and the editor for their helpful comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Yannick Peings.

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Peings, Y., Magnusdottir, G. Wintertime atmospheric response to Atlantic multidecadal variability: effect of stratospheric representation and ocean–atmosphere coupling. Clim Dyn 47, 1029–1047 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-015-2887-4

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Keywords

  • Atlantic multidecadal variability
  • North Atlantic Oscillation
  • Teleconnection
  • Cold extremes
  • Decadal forecasting
  • Jet stream
  • Rossby waves
  • Stratosphere–troposphere coupling
  • Ocean–atmosphere feedback