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Mechanisms for the Interannual Variability in the Tropical Indian Ocean. Part II: Regional Processes

To understand the mechanisms of the interannual variability in the tropical Indian Ocean, two long-term simulations are conducted using a coupled ocean––atmosphere GCM——one with active air––sea coupling over the global ocean and the other with regional coupling restricted within the Indian Ocean to the north of 30°°S while the climatological monthly sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are prescribed in the uncoupled oceans to drive the atmospheric circulation. The major spatial patterns of the observed upper-ocean heat content and SST anomalies can be reproduced realistically by both simulations, suggesting that they are determined by intrinsic coupled processes within the Indian Ocean. In both simulations, the interannual variability in the Indian Ocean is dominated by a tropical mode and a subtropical mode. The tropical mode is characterized by a coupled feedback among thermocline depth, zonal SST gradient, and wind anomalies over the equatorial and southern tropical Indian Ocean, which is strongest in boreal fall and winter. The tropical mode simulated by the global coupled model reproduces the main observational features, including a seasonal connection to the model El Niño––Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The ENSO influence, however, is weaker than that in a set of ensemble simulations described in Part I of this study, where the observed SST anomalies for 1950––98 are prescribed outside the Indian Ocean. Combining with the results from Part I of this study, it is concluded that ENSO can modulate the temporal variability of the tropical mode through atmospheric teleconnection. Its influence depends on the ENSO strength and duration. The stronger and more persistent El Niño events in the observations extend the life span of the anomalous events in the tropical Indian Ocean significantly. In the regional coupled simulation, the tropical mode is still active, but its dominant period is shifted away from that of ENSO. In the absence of ENSO forcing, the tropical mode is mainly stimulated by an anomalous atmospheric direct thermal cell forced by the fluctuations of the northwestern Pacific monsoon. The subtropical mode is characterized by an east––west dipole pattern of the SST anomalies in the southern subtropical Indian Ocean, which is strongest in austral fall. The SST anomalies are initially forced by surface heat flux anomalies caused by the anomalous southeast trade wind in the subtropical ocean during austral summer. The trade wind anomalies are in turn associated with extratropical variations from the southern annular mode. A thermodynamic air––sea feedback strengthens these subtropical anomalies quickly in austral fall and extends their remnants into the tropical ocean in austral winter. In the simulations, this subtropical variability is independent of ENSO. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Climate American Meteorological Society

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