The role of the Indonesian throughflow in the Indo-Pacific climate variability in the GFDL coupled climate model

Qian Song, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Anthony J. Rosati

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The impacts of the Indonesian Throughflow (ITF) on the tropical Indo-Pacific climate, particularly on the character of interannual variability, are explored using a coupled general circulation model (CGCM). A pair of CGCM experiments - a control experiment with an open ITF and a perturbation experiment in which the ITF is artificially closed - is integrated for 200 model years, with the 1990 values of trace gases. The closure of the ITF results in changes to the mean oceanic and atmospheric conditions throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific domain as follows: surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific (Indian) Ocean warm (cool), the near-equatorial Pacific (Indian) thermocline flattens (shoals), Indo-Pacific warm-pool precipitation shifts eastward, and there are relaxed trade winds over the tropical Pacific and anomalous surface easterlies over the equatorial Indian Ocean. The character of the oceanic changes is similar to that described by ocean-only model experiments, though the amplitude of many features in the tropical Indo - Pacific is amplified in the CGCM experiments. In addition to the mean-state changes, the character of tropical Indo-Pacific interannual variability is substantially modified. Interannual variability in the equatorial Pacific and the eastern tropical Indian Ocean is substantially intensified by the closure of the ITF. In addition to becoming more energetic, El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) exhibits a shorter time scale of variability and becomes more skewed toward its warm phase (stronger and more frequent warm events). The structure of warm ENSO events changes; the anomalies of sea surface temperature (SST), precipitation, and surface westerly winds are shifted to the east and the meridional extent of surface westerly anomalies is larger. In the eastern tropical Indian Ocean, the interannual SST variability off the coast of Java-Sumatra is noticeably amplified by the occurrence of much stronger cooling events. Closing the ITF shoals the eastern tropical Indian Ocean thermocline, which results in stronger cooling events through enhanced atmosphere-thermocline coupled feedbacks. Changes to the interannual variability caused by the ITF closure rectify into mean-state changes in tropical Indo-Pacific conditions. The modified Indo-Pacific interannual variability projects onto the mean-state differences between the ITF open and closed scenarios, rectifying into mean-state differences. These results suggest that CGCMs need to reasonably simulate the ITT in order to successfully represent not just the mean climate, but its variations as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2434-2451
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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