Predicting a decadal shift in North Atlantic climate variability using the GFDL forecast system

Rym Msadek, T. L. Delworth, A. Rosati, W. Anderson, Gabriel Andres Vecchi, Y. S. Chang, K. Dixon, R. G. Gudgel, W. Stern, A. Wittenberg, X. Yang, F. Zeng, R. Zhang, S. Zhang

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Decadal prediction experiments were conducted as part of phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) using the GFDL ClimateModel, version 2.1 (CM2.1) forecast system. The abrupt warming of the North Atlantic Subpolar Gyre (SPG) that was observed in the mid-1990s is considered as a case study to evaluate forecast capabilities and better understand the reasons for the observed changes. Initializing theCM2.1 coupled systemproduces high skill in retrospectively predicting themid-1990s shift, which is not captured by the uninitialized forecasts.All the hindcasts initialized in the early 1990s show a warming of the SPG; however, only the ensemble-mean hindcasts initialized in 1995 and 1996 are able to reproduce the observed abrupt warming and the associated decrease and contraction of the SPG. Examination of the physical mechanisms responsible for the successful retrospective predictions indicates that initializing the ocean is key to predicting themid-1990s warming. The successful initialized forecasts show an increasedAtlanticmeridional overturning circulation and North Atlantic Current transport, which drive an increased advection of warm saline subtropical waters northward, leading to a westward shift of the subpolar front and, subsequently, a warming and spindown of the SPG. Significant seasonal climate impacts are predicted as the SPG warms, including a reduced sea ice concentration over the Arctic, an enhanced warming over the central United States during summer and fall, and a northward shift of themean ITCZ.These climate anomalies are similar to those observed during awarmphase of the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation, which is encouraging for future predictions of North Atlantic climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6472-6496
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number17
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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