The Atmospheric Circulation over the North Atlantic as Induced by the SST Field

Robertson, Andrew W.; Feliks, Yizhak; Ghil, Michael

Spectral analyses of the sea surface temperature (SST) in the Simple Ocean Data Analysis (SODA) reanalysis for the past half-century identify prominent and statistically significant interannual oscillations in two regions along the Gulf Stream front over the North Atlantic. A model of the atmospheric marine boundary layer coupled to a baroclinic quasigeostrophic model of the free atmosphere is then forced with the SST history from the SODA reanalysis. Two extreme states are found in the atmospheric simulations: 1) an eastward extension of the westerly jet associated with the front, which occurs mainly during boreal winter, and 2) a quiescent state of very weak flow found predominantly in the summer. This vacillation of the oceanic-front-induced jet in the model is found to exhibit periodicities similar to those identified in the observed Gulf Stream SST front itself. In addition, a close correspondence is found between interannual spectral peaks in the observed North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index and the SODA-induced oscillations in the atmospheric model. In particular, significant oscillatory modes with periods of 8.5, 4.2, and 2.8 yr are found in both observed and simulated indices and are shown to be highly synchronized and of similar energy in both time series. These oscillatory modes in the simulations are shown to be suppressed when either (i) the Gulf Stream front or (ii) its interannual oscillations are omitted from the SST field. Moreover, these modes also disappear when (iii) the SST front is spatially smoothed, thus confirming that they are indeed induced by the oceanic front.

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Also Published In

Journal of Climate

More About This Work

Academic Units
International Research Institute for Climate and Society
American Meteorological Society
Published Here
July 18, 2012