Author Posting. © American Meteorological Society, 2010. This article is posted here by permission of American Meteorological Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Climate 23 (2010): 3249-3281, doi:10.1175/2010JCLI3343.1.
Ocean–atmosphere interaction over the Northern Hemisphere western boundary current (WBC) regions (i.e., the Gulf Stream, Kuroshio, Oyashio, and their extensions) is reviewed with an emphasis on their role in basin-scale climate variability. SST anomalies exhibit considerable variance on interannual to decadal time scales in these regions. Low-frequency SST variability is primarily driven by basin-scale wind stress curl variability via the oceanic Rossby wave adjustment of the gyre-scale circulation that modulates the latitude and strength of the WBC-related oceanic fronts. Rectification of the variability by mesoscale eddies, reemergence of the anomalies from the preceding winter, and tropical remote forcing also play important roles in driving and maintaining the low-frequency variability in these regions. In the Gulf Stream region, interaction with the deep western boundary current also likely influences the low-frequency variability. Surface heat fluxes damp the low-frequency SST anomalies over the WBC regions; thus, heat fluxes originate with heat anomalies in the ocean and have the potential to drive the overlying atmospheric circulation. While recent observational studies demonstrate a local atmospheric boundary layer response to WBC changes, the latter’s influence on the large-scale atmospheric circulation is still unclear. Nevertheless, heat and moisture fluxes from the WBCs into the atmosphere influence the mean state of the atmospheric circulation, including anchoring the latitude of the storm tracks to the WBCs. Furthermore, many climate models suggest that the large-scale atmospheric response to SST anomalies driven by ocean dynamics in WBC regions can be important in generating decadal climate variability. As a step toward bridging climate model results and observations, the degree of realism of the WBC in current climate model simulations is assessed. Finally, outstanding issues concerning ocean–atmosphere interaction in WBC regions and its impact on climate variability are discussed.
Funding for LT was
provided by the NASA-sponsored Ocean Surface Topography
Science Team, under Contract 1267196 with
the University of Washington, administered by the Jet
Propulsion Laboratory. HN was supported in part by the
Grant-in-Aid 18204044 by the Japan Society for Promotion
for Science (JSPS) and the Global Environment
Research Fund (S-5) of the Japanese Ministry of Environment.
YK was supported by the Kerr Endowed Fund
and Penzance Endowed Fund.
Sea surface temperature
Oceanic mixed layer
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