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Journal Article

Tropical Pacific decadal variability and the subtropical-tropical cells


Lohmann,  Katja
Director’s Research Group OES, The Ocean in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

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Lohmann, K., & Latif, M. (2005). Tropical Pacific decadal variability and the subtropical-tropical cells. Journal of Climate, 18(23), 5163-5178. doi:10.1175/JCLI3559.1.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0011-FE44-B
The decadal-scale variability in the tropical Pacific has been analyzed herein by means of observations and numerical model simulations. The two leading modes of the sea surface temperature (SST) variability in the central western Pacific are a decadal mode with a period of about 10 yr and the ENSO mode with a dominant period of about 4 yr. The SST anomaly pattern of the decadal mode is ENSO like. The decadal mode, however, explains most variance in the western equatorial Pacific and off the equator. A simulation with an ocean general circulation model (OGCM) forced by reanalysis data is used to explore the origin of the decadal mode. It is found that the variability of the shallow subtropical–tropical overturning cells is an important factor in driving the decadal mode. This is supported by results from a multicentury integration with a coupled ocean–atmosphere general circulation model (CGCM) that realistically simulates tropical Pacific decadal variability. Finally, the sensitivity of the shallow subtropical–tropical overturning cells to greenhouse warming is discussed by analyzing the results of a scenario integration with the same CGCM.