A highly nonlinear coupled mode of decadal variability in a mid-latitude ocean–atmosphere model

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Kravtsov, Sergey K.
Dewar, William K.
Berloff, Pavel S.
McWilliams, James C.
Ghil, M.
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Inertial recirculations
Mid-latitude jet stream
This study examines mid-latitude climate variability in a model that couples turbulent oceanic and atmospheric flows through an active oceanic mixed layer. Intrinsic ocean dynamics of the inertial recirculation regions combines with nonlinear atmospheric sensitivity to sea-surface temperature (SST) anomalies to play a dominant role in the variability of the coupled system. Intrinsic low-frequency variability arises in the model atmosphere; when run in a stand-alone mode, it is characterized by irregular transitions between preferred high-latitude and less frequent low-latitude zonal-flow states. When the atmosphere is coupled to the ocean, the low-latitude state occurrences exhibit a statistically significant signal in a broad 5–15-year band. A similar signal is found in the time series of the model ocean’s energy in this coupled simulation. Accompanying uncoupled ocean-only and atmosphere-only integrations are characterized by a decrease in the decadal-band variability, relative to the coupled integration; their spectra are indistinguishable from a red spectrum. The time scale of the coupled interdecadal oscillation is set by the nonlinear adjustment of the ocean’s inertial recirculations to the high-latitude and low-latitude atmospheric forcing regimes. This adjustment involves, in turn, SST changes resulting in long-term ocean–atmosphere heat-flux anomalies that induce the atmospheric regime transitions.
Author Posting. © Elsevier B.V., 2007. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Elsevier B.V. for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans 43 (2007): 123-150, doi:10.1016/j.dynatmoce.2006.08.001.
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