Thermodynamic controls of the Atlantic Niño
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Prevailing theories on the equatorial Atlantic Niño are based on the dynamical interaction between atmosphere and ocean. However, dynamical coupled ocean-atmosphere models poorly simulate and predict equatorial Atlantic climate variability. Here we use multi-model numerical experiments to show that thermodynamic feedbacks excited by stochastic atmospheric perturbations can generate Atlantic Niño s.d. of ~0.28±0.07 K, explaining ~68±23% of the observed interannual variability. Thus, in state-of-the-art coupled models, Atlantic Niño variability strongly depends on the thermodynamic component (R2=0.92). Coupled dynamics acts to improve the characteristic Niño-like spatial structure but not necessarily the variance. Perturbations of the equatorial Atlantic trade winds (~±1.53 m s−1) can drive changes in surface latent heat flux (~±14.35 W m−2) and thus in surface temperature consistent with a first-order autoregressive process. By challenging the dynamical paradigm of equatorial Atlantic variability, our findings suggest that the current theories on its modelling and predictability must be revised.
CitationNature Communications 2015, 6
PublisherNature Publishing Group (NPG)
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