American Meteorological Society

The Effect of Wind Stress Anomalies and Location in Driving Pacific Subtropical Cells and Tropical Climate


Source: American Meteorological Society

The importance of subtropical and extratropical zonal wind stress anomalies on Pacific Subtropical Cells (STCs) strength is assessed through several idealized and realistic numerical experiments with a global ocean model. Different zonal wind stress anomalies are employed, and their intensity is strengthened or weakened with respect to the climatological value throughout a suite of simulations. Subtropical strengthened (weakened) zonal wind stress anomalies result in increased (decreased) STCs meridional mass and energy transport. Upwelling of subsurface water into the tropics is intensified (reduced), a distinct cold (warm) anomaly appears in the equatorial thermocline and up to the surface, resulting in significant tropical sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies. The use of realistic wind stress anomalies also suggests a potential impact of mid-latitude atmospheric modes of variability on tropical climate through STC dynamics. The remotely-driven response is compared with a set of simulations where an equatorial zonal wind stress anomaly is imposed. A dynamically distinct response is achieved, whereby the equatorial thermocline adjusts to the wind stress anomaly resulting in significant equatorial SST anomalies as in the remotely-forced simulations, but with no role for STCs. Significant anomalies in Indonesian Throughflow transport are generated only when equatorial wind stress anomalies are applied, leading to remarkable heat content anomalies in the Indian Ocean. Equatorial wind stress anomalies do not involve modifications of STCs transport, but could set up the appropriate initial conditions for a tropical-extratropical teleconnection involving Hadley cells, exciting a STC anomalous transport which ultimately feeds back on the Tropics.

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