EGU2020-8835
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-8835
EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Walker Circulation controls ENSO Atmospheric Feedbacks in Uncoupled and Coupled Climate Model Simulations

Tobias Bayr, Dietmar Dommenget, and Mojib Latif
Tobias Bayr et al.
  • GEOMAR Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel, Maritime Meteorologie, Kiel, Germany (tbayr@geomar.de)

Many climate models strongly underestimate the two most important atmospheric feedbacks operating in El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the positive (amplifying) zonal surface wind feedback and negative (damping) surface-heat flux feedback (hereafter ENSO atmospheric feedbacks, EAF), hampering realistic representation of ENSO dynamics in these models. Here we show that the atmospheric components of climate models participating in the 5th phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) when forced by observed sea surface temperatures (SST), already underestimate EAF on average by 23%, but less than their coupled counterparts (on average by 54%). There is a pronounced tendency of atmosphere models to simulate stronger EAF, when they exhibit a stronger mean deep convection and enhanced cloud cover over the western equatorial Pacific (WEP), indicative of a stronger rising branch of the Pacific Walker Circulation (PWC). Further, differences in the mean deep convection over the WEP between the coupled and uncoupled models explain a large part of the differences in EAF, with the deep convection in the coupled models strongly depending on the equatorial Pacific SST bias. Experiments with a single atmosphere model support the relation between the equatorial Pacific atmospheric mean state, the SST bias and the EAF. An implemented cold SST bias in the observed SST forcing weakens deep convection and reduces cloud cover in the rising branch of the PWC, causing weaker EAF. A warm SST bias has the opposite effect. Our results elucidate how biases in the mean state of the PWC and equatorial SST hamper a realistic simulation of the EAF.

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