John Marshall

Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Oceanography, MIT

Coupled ocean-atmosphere dynamics in a simple midlatitude climate model

Coupled ocean-atmosphere dynamics in a simple midlatitude climate model.

(Ferreira, D and Frankignoul, C and Marshall, J), JOURNAL OF CLIMATE, vol. 14, no. 17, pp. pages, 2001.


Midlatitude air-sea interactions are investigated by coupling a stochastically forced two-layer quasigeostrophic channel atmosphere to a simple ocean model. The stochastic forcing has a large-scale standing pattern to simulate the main modes of low-frequency atmospheric variability. When the atmosphere interacts with an oceanic mixed layer via surface heat exchanges, the white noise forcing generates an approximately red noise sea surface temperature (SST) response. As the SST adjusts to the air temperature changes at low frequency, thus decreasing the heat flux damping, the atmospheric spectra are slightly reddened, the power enhancement increasing with the zonal scale because of atmospheric dynamics. Decadal variability is enhanced by considering a first baroclinic oceanic mode that is forced by Ekman pumping and modulates the SST by entrainment and horizontal advection. The ocean interior is bounded at its eastern edge, and a radiation condition is used in the west. Primarily in wintertime conditions, a positive feedback takes place between the atmosphere and the ocean when the atmospheric response to the SST is equivalent barotropic. Then, the ocean interior modulates the SST in a way that leads to a reinforcement of its forcing by the wind stress, although the heat flux feedback is negative. The coupled mode propagates slowly westward with exponentially increasing amplitude, and it is fetch limited. The atmospheric and SST spectral power increase at all periods longer than 10 yr when the coupling with the ocean interior occurs by entrainment. When it occurs by advection, the power increase is primarily found at near-decadal periods, resulting in a slightly oscillatory behavior of the coupled system. Ocean dynamics thus leads to a small, but significant, long-term climate predictability, up to about 6 yr in advance in the entrainment case.

doi = 10.1175/1520-0442(2001)0142.0.CO;2