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South Atlantic Variability Arising from Air–Sea Coupling: Local Mechanisms and Tropical–Subtropical Interactions

Robertson, Andrew W.; Trzaska, Sylwia A.; Farrara, John D.; Mechoso, Carlos R.

Interannual variability in the southern and equatorial Atlantic is investigated using an atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) coupled to a slab ocean model (SOM) in the Atlantic in order to isolate features of air–sea interactions particular to this basin. Simulated covariability between sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and atmosphere is very similar to the observed non-ENSO-related covariations in both spatial structures and time scales. The leading simulated empirical coupled mode resembles the zonal mode in the tropical Atlantic, despite the lack of ocean dynamics, and is associated with baroclinic atmospheric anomalies in the Tropics and a Rossby wave train extending to the extratropics, suggesting an atmospheric response to tropical SST forcing. The second non-ENSO mode is the subtropical dipole in the SST with a mainly equivalent barotropic atmospheric anomaly centered on the subtropical high and associated with a midlatitude wave train, consistent with atmospheric forcing of the subtropical SST. The power spectrum of the tropical mode in both simulation and observation is red with two major interannual peaks near 5 and 2 yr. The quasi-biennial component exhibits a progression between the subtropics and the Tropics. It is phase locked to the seasonal cycle and owes its existence to the imbalances between SST–evaporation and SST–shortwave radiation feedbacks. These feedbacks are found to be reversed between the western and eastern South Atlantic, associated with the dominant role of deep convection in the west and that of shallow clouds in the east. A correct representation of tropical–extratropical interactions and of deep and shallow clouds may thus be crucial to the simulation of realistic interannual variability in the southern and tropical Atlantic.

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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 23, 2012