AbstractThis study explores the potential predictability of the Southern Ocean (SO) climate on decadal timescales as represented in the GFDL CM2.1 model using prognostic methods. We conduct perfect model predictability experiments starting from ten different initial states, and show potentially predictable variations of Antarctic bottom water formation (AABW) rates on time scales as long as twenty years. The associated Weddell Sea (WS) subsurface temperatures and Antarctic sea ice have comparable potential predictability as the AABW cell. The predictability of sea surface temperature (SST) variations over the WS and the SO is somewhat smaller, with predictable scales out to a decade. This reduced predictability is likely associated with stronger damping from air-sea interaction. As a complement to our perfect predictability study, we also make hindcasts of SO decadal variability using the GFDL CM2.1 decadal prediction system. Significant predictive skill for SO SST on multi-year time scales is found in the hindcast system. The success of the hindcasts, especially in reproducing observed surface cooling trends, is largely due to initializing the state of the AABW cell. A weak state of the AABW cell leads to cooler surface conditions and more extensive sea ice. Although there are considerable uncertainties regarding the observational data used to initialize the hindcasts, the consistency between the perfect model experiments and the decadal hindcasts at least gives us some indication as to where and to what extent skillful decadal SO forecasts might be possible.
Journal of Climate – American Meteorological Society
Published: Mar 28, 2017
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