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Journal Article

Numerical experiments on the atmospheric response to cold equatorial Pacific conditions ("La Nina") during northern summer


von Storch,  Hans
MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

Schriever,  Dierk
MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

Arpe,  Klaus
MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

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von Storch, H., Schriever, D., Arpe, K., Branstator, G. W., Legnani, R., & Ulbrich, U. (1994). Numerical experiments on the atmospheric response to cold equatorial Pacific conditions ("La Nina") during northern summer. The Global Atmosphere and Ocean System, 2, 99-120.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-576C-5
The effect of cold conditions in the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific during Northern Summer is examined in a series of numerical experiments with the low resolution (T21) atmospheric general circulation model ECHAM2. Anomalous sea surface temperatures (SST) as observed in June 1988 were prescribed and the effect on the global circulation is examined. In the model atmosphere, the anomalous cold water in the Equatorial Pacific excites a strong and stable response over the tropical Central and East Pacific. From here stationary Rossby waves radiate into both hemispheres. The Northern Hemisphere wave train is weak and affects only the Northeast Pacific area; the Southern Hemisphere wave train arches from the Central Pacific over the southern tip of South America to the South Atlantic. This response is not only present in the basic anomaly experiment with the T21 GCM but also in experiments with SST anomalies confined to the tropics and with an envelope- forrnulation of the SST anomalies, in experiments with a linear model, and in high resolution (T42) model experiments. The model output is also compared to the actually observed atmospheric state in June 1988. The model simulations do not reproduce the global circulation anomalies which were observed in June 1988. The model experiments are inconclusive with respect to the question of whether the North American drought observed in summer 1988 was related to the anomalous SST conditions in the Subtropical and Tropical Pacific. An explanatory analysis with a linear model reacting to prescribed heating anomalies as well as with the high-resolution GCM indicates that the model overreacted to the equatorial SST anomalies but almost ignored the contemporaneous subtropical SST anomalies on the Southern Hemisphere.