Changes in the Spread of the Variability of the Seasonal Mean Atmospheric States Associated with ENSO

Kumar, Arun; Barnston, Anthony G.; Peng, Peitao; Hoerling, Martin P.; Goddard, Lisa M.

For a fixed sea surface temperature (SST) forcing, the variability of the observed seasonal mean atmospheric states in the extratropical latitudes can be characterized in terms of probability distribution functions (PDFs). Predictability of the seasonal mean anomalies related to interannual variations in the SSTs, therefore, entails understanding the influence of SST forcing on various moments of the probability distribution that characterize the variability of the seasonal means. Such an understanding for changes in the first moment of the PDF for the seasonal means with SSTs is well documented. In this paper the analysis is extended to include also the impact of SST forcing on the second moment of the PDFs. The analysis is primarily based on ensemble atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) simulations forced with observed SSTs for the period 1950–94. To establish the robustness of the results and to ensure that they are not unduly affected by biases in a particular AGCM, the analysis is based on simulations from four different AGCMs. The analysis of AGCM simulations indicates that over the Pacific–North American region, the impact of interannual variations in SSTs on the spread of the seasonal mean atmospheric states (i.e., the second moment of the PDFs) may be small. This is in contrast to their well-defined impact on the first moment of the PDF for the seasonal mean atmospheric state that is manifested as an anomalous wave train over this region. For seasonal predictions, the results imply that the dominant contribution to seasonal predictability comes from the impact of SSTs on the first moment of the PDF, with the impact of SSTs on the second moment of the PDFs playing a secondary role.


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Academic Units
International Research Institute for Climate and Society
American Meteorological Society
Published Here
March 31, 2016