The role of air–sea coupling on November–April intraseasonal rainfall variability over the South Pacific
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionClimate Dynamics. 2022. 10.1007/s00382-022-06354-6
We investigate the impact of resolving air-sea interaction on the simulation of the intraseasonal rainfall variability over the South Pacific using the ECHAM5 atmospheric general circulation model coupled with the Snow-Ice-Thermocline (SIT) ocean model. We compare the fully coupled simulation with two uncoupled ECHAM5 simulations, one forced with sea surface temperature (SST) climatology and one forced with daily SST from the coupled model. The intraseasonal rainfall variability over the South Pacific is reduced by 17% in the uncoupled model forced with SST climatology and increased by 8% in the uncoupled simulation forced with daily SST, suggesting the role of air–sea coupling and SST variability. The coupled model best simulates the key characteristics of the two dominant patterns (modes) of intraseasonal rainfall variability over the South Pacific with reasonable propagation and correct periodicity. The spatial structure of the two rainfall modes in all three simulations is very similar, suggesting the dynamics of the atmosphere primarily generate these modes. The southeastward propagation of rainfall anomalies associated with two leading rainfall modes in the South Pacific depends upon the eastward propagating Madden–Julian Oscillation (MJO) signals from the Indian Ocean and western Pacific. Air-sea interaction improves such propagation as both eastward and southeastward propagations are substantially reduced in the uncoupled model forced with SST climatology. The simulation of both eastward and southeastward propagations considerably improved in the uncoupled model forced with daily SST; however, the periodicity differs from the coupled model. Such discrepancy in the periodicity is attributed to the changes in the SST-rainfall relationship with weaker correlations and the nearly in-phase relationship, attributed to enhanced positive latent heat flux feedbacks.