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  • 1
    Publication Date: 2019-02-01
    Description: Current climate models systematically underestimate the strength of oceanic fronts associated with strong western boundary currents, such as the Kuroshio and Gulf Stream Extensions, and have difficulty simulating their positions at the mid-latitude ocean’s western boundaries1. Even with an enhanced grid resolution to resolve ocean mesoscale eddies—energetic circulations with horizontal scales of about a hundred kilometres that strongly interact with the fronts and currents—the bias problem can still persist2; to improve climate models we need a better understanding of the dynamics governing these oceanic frontal regimes. Yet prevailing theories about the western boundary fronts are based on ocean internal dynamics without taking into consideration the intense air–sea feedbacks in these oceanic frontal regions. Here, by focusing on the Kuroshio Extension Jet east of Japan as the direct continuation of the Kuroshio, we show that feedback between ocean mesoscale eddies and the atmosphere (OME-A) is fundamental to the dynamics and control of these energetic currents. Suppressing OME-A feedback in eddy-resolving coupled climate model simulations results in a 20–40 per cent weakening in the Kuroshio Extension Jet. This is because OME-A feedback dominates eddy potential energy destruction, which dissipates more than 70 per cent of the eddy potential energy extracted from the Kuroshio Extension Jet. The absence of OME-A feedback inevitably leads to a reduction in eddy potential energy production in order to balance the energy budget, which results in a weakened mean current. The finding has important implications for improving climate models’ representation of major oceanic fronts, which are essential components in the simulation and prediction of extratropical storms and other extreme events3, 4, 5, 6, as well as in the projection of the effect on these events of climate change.
    Type: Article , PeerReviewed
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  • 2
    Publication Date: 2017-04-07
    Description: Climate variability in the tropical Atlantic Ocean is determined by large-scale ocean–atmosphere interactions, which particularly affect deep atmospheric convection over the ocean and surrounding continents1. Apart from influences from the Pacific El Niño/Southern Oscillation2 and the North Atlantic Oscillation3, the tropical Atlantic variability is thought to be dominated by two distinct ocean–atmosphere coupled modes of variability that are characterized by meridional4, 5 and zonal6, 7 sea-surface-temperature gradients and are mainly active on decadal and interannual timescales, respectively8, 9. Here we report evidence that the intrinsic ocean dynamics of the deep equatorial Atlantic can also affect sea surface temperature, wind and rainfall in the tropical Atlantic region and constitutes a 4.5-yr climate cycle. Specifically, vertically alternating deep zonal jets of short vertical wavelength with a period of about 4.5 yr and amplitudes of more than 10 cm s−1 are observed, in the deep Atlantic, to propagate their energy upwards, towards the surface10, 11. They are linked, at the sea surface, to equatorial zonal current anomalies and eastern Atlantic temperature anomalies that have amplitudes of about 6 cm s−1 and 0.4 °C, respectively, and are associated with distinct wind and rainfall patterns. Although deep jets are also observed in the Pacific12 and Indian13 oceans, only the Atlantic deep jets seem to oscillate on interannual timescales. Our knowledge of the persistence and regularity of these jets is limited by the availability of high-quality data. Despite this caveat, the oscillatory behaviour can still be used to improve predictions of sea surface temperature in the tropical Atlantic. Deep-jet generation and upward energy transmission through the Equatorial Undercurrent warrant further theoretical study.
    Type: Article , PeerReviewed
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