GFDL's CM2 global coupled climate models. Part III: Tropical Pacific climate and ENSO

Andrew T. Wittenberg, Anthony Rosati, Ngar Cheung Lau, Jeffrey J. Ploshay

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313 Scopus citations


Multicentury integrations from two global coupled ocean-atmosphere-land-ice models [Climate Model versions 2.0 (CM2.0) and 2.1 (CM2.1), developed at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory] are described in terms of their tropical Pacific climate and El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The integrations are run without flux adjustments and provide generally realistic simulations of tropical Pacific climate. The observed annual-mean trade winds and precipitation, sea surface temperature, surface heat fluxes, surface currents, Equatorial Undercurrent, and subsurface thermal structure are well captured by the models. Some biases are evident, including a cold SST bias along the equator, a warm bias along the coast of South America, and a westward extension of the trade winds relative to observations. Along the equator, the models exhibit a robust, westward-propagating annual cycle of SST and zonal winds. During boreal spring, excessive rainfall south of the equator is linked to an unrealistic reversal of the simulated meridional winds in the east, and a stronger-than-observed semiannual signal is evident in the zonal winds and Equatorial Undercurrent. Both CM2.0 and CM2.1 have a robust ENSO with multidecadal fluctuations in amplitude, an irregular period between 2 and 5 yr, and a distribution of SST anomalies that is skewed toward warm events as observed. The evolution of subsurface temperature and current anomalies is also quite realistic. However, the simulated SST anomalies are too strong, too weakly damped by surface heat fluxes, and not as clearly phase locked to the end of the calendar year as in observations. The simulated patterns of tropical Pacific SST, wind stress, and precipitation variability are displaced 20°-30° west of the observed patterns, as are the simulated ENSO teleconnections to wintertime 200-hPa heights over Canada and the northeastern Pacific Ocean. Despite this, the impacts of ENSO on summertime and wintertime precipitation outside the tropical Pacific appear to be well simulated. Impacts of the annual-mean biases on the simulated variability are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)698-722
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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