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  1. Abstract

    Glacial‐interglacial oscillations exhibit a periodicity of approximately 100 Kyr during the late Pleistocene. Insolation variations are understood to play a vital role in these ice ages, yet their exact effect is still unknown; the 100 Kyr ice ages may be explained in two different ways. They could be purely insolation‐driven, such that ice ages are a consequence of insolation variations and would not have existed without these variations. Or, ice ages may be self‐sustained oscillations, where they would have existed even without insolation variations. We develop several observable measures that are used to differentiate between the two scenarios and can help to determine which one is more likely based on the observed proxy record. We demonstrate these analyses using two representative models. First, we find that the self‐sustained model best fits the ice volume proxy record for the full 800‐Kyr time period. Next, the same model also shows a 100 Kyr peak consistent with observations, yet the insolation‐driven model exhibits a dominant 400 Kyr spectral peak inconsistent with observations. Our third measure indicates that midpoints in ice volume during terminations do not always occur during the same phase of insolation in both observations and the self‐sustained scenario, whereas they do in the insolation‐driven scenario. While some of these results suggest that the self‐sustained ice ages are more consistent with the observed record, they rely on simple representations of the two scenarios. To draw robust conclusions, a broader class of models should be tested using this method of producing observable differences.

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  2. Abstract

    Coastal upwelling, driven by alongshore winds and characterized by cold sea surface temperatures and high upper-ocean nutrient content, is an important physical process sustaining some of the oceans’ most productive ecosystems. To fully understand the ocean properties in eastern boundary upwelling systems, it is important to consider the depth of the source waters being upwelled, as it affects both the SST and the transport of nutrients toward the surface. Here, we construct an upwelling source depth distribution for parcels at the surface in the upwelling zone. We do so using passive tracers forced at the domain boundary for every model depth level to quantify their contributions to the upwelled waters. We test the dependence of this distribution on the strength of the wind stress and stratification using high-resolution regional ocean simulations of an idealized coastal upwelling system. We also present an efficient method for estimating the mean upwelling source depth. Furthermore, we show that the standard deviation of the upwelling source depth distribution increases with increasing wind stress and decreases with increasing stratification. These results can be applied to better understand and predict how coastal upwelling sites and their surface properties have and will change in past and future climates.

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  3. Abstract Stratocumulus clouds cover about a fifth of Earth’s surface, and due to their albedo and low-latitude location, they have a strong effect on Earth’s radiation budget. Previous studies using large-eddy simulations have shown that multiple equilibria (both stratocumulus-covered and cloud-free/scattered cumulus states) exist as a function of fixed SST, with relevance to equatorward advected air masses. Multiple equilibria have also been found as a function of atmospheric CO 2 , with a subtropical SST nearly 10 K higher in the cloud-free state and with suggested relevance to warm climate dynamics. In this study, we use a mixed-layer model with an added surface energy balance and the ability to simulate both the stratocumulus (coupled) and cloud-free/scattered cumulus (decoupled) states using a “stacked” mixed-layer approach to study both types of multiple equilibria and the corresponding hysteresis. The model’s simplicity and computational efficiency allow us to qualitatively explore the mechanisms critical to the stratocumulus cloud instability and hysteresis as well as isolate key processes that allow for multiple equilibria via mechanism-denial experiments not possible with a full-complexity model. For the hysteresis in fixed SST, we find that decoupling can occur due to either enhanced entrainment warming or a reduction in cloud-top longwave cooling. The critical SST at which decoupling occurs is highly sensitive to precipitation and entrainment parameterizations. In the CO 2 hysteresis, decoupling occurs in the simple model used even without the inclusion of SST–cloud cover feedbacks, and the width of the hysteresis displays the same sensitivities as the fixed SST case. Overall, the simple model analysis and results motivate further studies using higher complexity models. 
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  4. Abstract The middepth ocean temperature profile was found by Munk in 1966 to agree with an exponential profile and shown to be consistent with a vertical advective–diffusive balance. However, tracer release experiments show that vertical diffusivity in the middepth ocean is an order of magnitude too small to explain the observed 1-km exponential scale. Alternative mechanisms suggested that nearly all middepth water upwells adiabatically in the Southern Ocean (SO). In this picture, SO eddies and wind set SO isopycnal slopes and therefore determine a nonvanishing middepth interior stratification even in the adiabatic limit. The effect of SO eddies on SO isopycnal slopes can be understood via either a marginal criticality condition or a near-vanishing SO residual deep overturning condition in the adiabatic limit. We examine the interplay between SO dynamics and interior mixing in setting the exponential profiles of σ 2 and ∂ z σ 2 . We use eddy-permitting numerical simulations, in which we artificially change the diapycnal mixing only away from the SO. We find that SO isopycnal slopes change in response to changes in the interior diapycnal mixing even when the wind forcing is constant, consistent with previous studies (that did not address these near-exponential profiles). However, in the limit of small interior mixing, the interior ∂ z σ 2 profile is not exponential, suggesting that SO processes alone, in an adiabatic limit, do not lead to the observed near-exponential structures of such profiles. The results suggest that while SO wind and eddies contribute to the nonvanishing middepth interior stratification, the exponential shape of the ∂ z σ 2 profiles must also involve interior diapycnal mixing. 
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  5. Abstract

    We examine the hypothesis that the observed connection between the stratospheric quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) and the strength of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) is modulated by the sea surface temperature (SST)—for example, by El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). A composite analysis shows that, globally, La Niña SSTs are remarkably similar to those that occur during the easterly phase of the QBO. A maximum covariance analysis suggests that MJO power and SST are strongly linked on both the ENSO time scale and the QBO time scale. We analyze simulations with a modified configuration of version 2 of the Community Earth System Model, with a high top and fine vertical resolution. The model is able to simulate ENSO, the QBO, and the MJO. The ocean-coupled version of the model simulates the QBO, ENSO, and MJO, but does not simulate the observed QBO–MJO connection. When driven with prescribed observed SST anomalies based on composites for QBO east and QBO west (QBOE and QBOW), however, the same atmospheric model produces a modest enhancement of MJO power during QBOE relative to QBOW, as observed. We explore the possibility that the SST anomalies are forced by the QBO itself. Indeed, composite Hovmöller diagrams based on observations show the propagation of QBO zonal wind anomalies all the way from the upper stratosphere to the surface. Also, subsurface ocean temperature composites reveal a similarity between the western Pacific and Indian Ocean subsurface signal between La Niña and QBOE.

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  6. Abstract Westerly wind bursts (WWBs) are anomalous surface wind gusts that play an important role in ENSO dynamics. Previous studies have identified several mechanisms that may be involved in the dynamics of WWBs. In particular, many have examined the importance of atmospheric deep convection to WWBs, including convection due to tropical cyclones, equatorial waves, and the Madden Julian Oscillation. Still, the WWB mechanism is not yet fully understood. In this study, we investigate the location of atmospheric convection which leads to WWBs and the role of positive feedbacks involving surface evaporation. We find that disabling surface flux feedbacks a few days before a WWB peaks does not weaken the event, arguing against local surface flux feedbacks serving as a WWB growth mechanism on individual events. On the other hand, directly suppressing convection by inhibiting latent heat release or eliminating surface evaporation rapidly weakens a WWB. By selectively suppressing convection near or further away from the equator, we find that convection related to off-equatorial cyclonic vortices is most important to equatorial WWB winds, while on-equator convection is unimportant. Despite strong resemblance of WWB wind patterns to the Gill response to equatorial heating, our findings indicate that equatorial convection is not necessary for WWBs to develop. Our conclusions are consistent with the idea that tropical cyclones, generally occurring more than 5° away from the equator, may be responsible for the majority of WWBs. 
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  7. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Winter Arctic sea ice loss has been simulated with varying degrees of abruptness across global climate models (GCMs) run in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) under the high-emissions extended RCP8.5 scenario. Previous studies have proposed various mechanisms to explain modeled abrupt winter sea ice loss, such as the existence of a wintertime convective cloud feedback or the role of the freezing point as a natural threshold, but none have sought to explain the variability of the abruptness of winter sea ice loss across GCMs. Here we propose a year-to-year local positive feedback cycle in which warm, open oceans at the start of winter allow for the moistening and warming of the lower atmosphere, which in turn increases the downward clear-sky longwave radiation at the surface and suppresses ocean freezing. This situation leads to delayed and diminished winter sea ice growth and allows for increased shortwave absorption from lowered surface albedo during springtime. Last, the ocean stores this additional heat throughout the summer and autumn seasons, setting up even warmer ocean conditions that lead to further sea ice reduction. We show that the strength of this feedback, as measured by the partial temperature contributions of the different surface heat fluxes, correlates strongly with the abruptness of winter sea ice loss across models. Thus, we suggest that this feedback mechanism may explain intermodel spread in the abruptness of winter sea ice loss. In models in which the feedback mechanism is strong, this may indicate the possibility of hysteresis and thus irreversibility of sea ice loss. 
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  8. Abstract Concentrated poleward flows along eastern boundaries between 2- and 4-km depth in the southeast Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans have been observed, and appear in data assimilation products and regional model simulations at sufficiently high horizontal resolution, but their dynamics are still not well understood. We study the local dynamics of these deep eastern boundary currents (DEBCs) using idealized GCM simulations, and we use a conceptual vorticity model for the DEBCs to gain additional insights into the dynamics. Over most of the zonal width of the DEBCs, the vorticity balance is between meridional advection of planetary vorticity and vortex stretching, which is an interior-like vorticity balance. Over a thinner layer very close to the eastern boundary, a balance between vorticity tendencies due to friction and stretching that rapidly decay away from the boundary is found. Over the part of the DEBC that is governed by an interior-like vorticity balance, vertical stretching is driven by both the topography and temperature diffusion, while in the thinner boundary layer, it is driven instead by parameterized horizontal temperature mixing. The topographic driving acts via a cross-isobath flow that leads to stretching and thus to vorticity forcing for the concentrated DEBCs. 
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