Surface flux response to interannual tropical Pacific sea surface temperature variability in AMIP models


 A systematic comparison of observed and modeled atmospheric surface heat and momentum fluxes related to sea surface temperature (SST) variability on interannual time scales in the tropical Pacific is conducted. This is done to examine the ability of atmospheric general circulation models (AGCMs) in the Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) to simulate the surface fluxes important for driving the ocean on interannual time scales. In order to estimate the model and observed response to such SST variability, various regression calculations are made between a time series representing observed ENSO SST variability in the tropical Pacific and the resulting surface flux anomalies. The models exhibit a range of differences from the observations. Overall the zonal wind stress anomalies are most accurately simulated while the solar radiation anomalies are the least accurately depicted. The deficiencies in the solar radiation are closely related to errors in cloudiness. The total heat flux shows some cancellation of the errors in its components particularly in the central Pacific. The performance of the GCMs in simulating the surface flux anomalies seems to be resolution dependent and low-resolution models tend to exhibit weaker flux responses. The simulated responses in the western Pacific are more variable than those of the central and eastern Pacific but in the west the observed estimates are less robust as well. Further improvements in atmospheric GCM flux simulation through better physical parametrization is clearly required if such models are to be used to their full potential in coupled modeling and climate forecasting.

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Received: 24 August 1999 / Accepted: 11 September 2000

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Kleeman, R., Wang, G. & Jewson, S. Surface flux response to interannual tropical Pacific sea surface temperature variability in AMIP models. Climate Dynamics 17, 627–641 (2001).

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  • Surface Flux
  • Atmospheric General Circulation Model
  • Interannual Time Scale
  • Total Heat Flux
  • Zonal Wind Stress