Response and impact of equatorial ocean dynamics and tropical instability waves in the tropical Atlantic under global warming : a regional coupled downscaling study
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A regional coupled model is used for a dynamic downscaling over the tropical Atlantic based on a global warming simulation carried out with the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory CM2.1. The regional coupled model features a realistic representation of equatorial ocean dynamical processes such as the tropical instability waves (TIWs) that are not adequately simulated in many global coupled climate models. The coupled downscaling hence provides a unique opportunity to assess their response and impact in a changing climate. Under global warming, both global and regional models exhibit an increased (decreased) rainfall in the tropical northeast (South) Atlantic. Given this asymmetric change in mean state, the regional model produces the intensified near-surface cross-equatorial southerly wind and zonal currents. The equatorial cold tongue exhibits a reduced surface warming due to the enhanced upwelling. It is mainly associated with the increased vertical velocities driven by cross-equatorial wind, in contrast to the equatorial Pacific, where thermal stratification is suggested to be more important under global warming. The strengthened upwelling and zonal currents in turn amplify the dynamic instability of the equatorial ocean, thereby intensifying TIWs. The increased eddy heat flux significantly warms the equator and counters the effect of enhanced upwelling. Zonal eddy heat flux makes the largest contribution, suggesting a need for sustained monitoring of TIWs with spatially denser observational arrays in the equatorial oceans. Overall, results suggest that eddy heat flux is an important factor that may impact the mean state warming of equatorial oceans, as it does in the current climate.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2011. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research 116 (2011): C03026, doi:10.1029/2010JC006670.
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