Amaya, D., M. J. DeFlorio, A. J. Miller and S.-P. Xie, 2016:

WES feedback and the Atlantic Meridional Mode: Observations and CMIP5 comparisons


Climate Dynamics, doi:10.1007/s00382-016-3411-1, in press.

Abstract. The Atlantic Meridional Mode (AMM) is the dominant mode of tropical SST/wind coupled variability. Modeling studies have implicated wind-evaporation-SST (WES) feedback as the primary driver of the AMM.s evolution across the Atlantic basin; however, a robust coupling of the SST and winds has not been shown observationally. This study examines observed AMM growth, propagation, and decay as a result of WES interactions. Investigation of a lagged maximum covariance analysis shows that boreal wintertime atmospheric forcing generates positive SST anomalies (SSTA) through a reduction surface evaporative cooling. When the AMM peaks in magnitude during spring and summer, upward latent heat flux anomalies occur over the warmest SSTs and act to dampen the initial forcing. In contrast, on the southwestward edge of the SSTA, SST-forced cross-equatorial flow reduces the strength of the climatological trade winds and provides an anomalous latent heat flux into the ocean, which causes southwestward propagation of the initial atmosphere-forced SSTA through WES dynamics. Additionally, the lead-lag relationship of the ocean and atmosphere indicates a transition from an atmosphere-forcing-ocean regime in the northern subtropics to a highly coupled regime in the northern tropics that is not observed in the southern hemisphere. CMIP5 models poorly simulate the latitudinal transition from a one-way interaction to a two-way feedback, which may explain why they struggle to reproduce observed coupled interactions between tropical Atlantic SST and winds. This analysis provides valuable insight on how meridional modes act as links between extratropical and tropical variability and focuses future research aimed at improving climate model simulations.

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