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Atmosphere feedbacks during ENSO in a coupled GCM with a modified atmospheric convection scheme

Guilyardi, E., Braconnot, P., Jin, F. -F., Kim, S. T., Kolasinski, M., Li, T. and Musat, I. (2009) Atmosphere feedbacks during ENSO in a coupled GCM with a modified atmospheric convection scheme. Journal of Climate, 22 (21). pp. 5698-5718. ISSN 1520-0442

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/2009JCLI2815.1


The too diverse representation of ENSO in a coupled GCM limits one’s ability to describe future change of its properties. Several studies pointed to the key role of atmosphere feedbacks in contributing to this diversity. These feedbacks are analyzed here in two simulations of a coupled GCM that differ only by the parameterization of deep atmospheric convection and the associated clouds. Using the Kerry–Emanuel (KE) scheme in the L’Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace Coupled Model, version 4 (IPSL CM4; KE simulation), ENSO has about the right amplitude, whereas it is almost suppressed when using the Tiedke (TI) scheme. Quantifying both the dynamical Bjerknes feedback and the heat flux feedback in KE, TI, and the corresponding Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) atmosphere-only simulations, it is shown that the suppression of ENSO in TI is due to a doubling of the damping via heat flux feedback. Because the Bjerknes positive feedback is weak in both simulations, the KE simulation exhibits the right ENSO amplitude owing to an error compensation between a too weak heat flux feedback and a too weak Bjerknes feedback. In TI, the heat flux feedback strength is closer to estimates from observations and reanalysis, leading to ENSO suppression. The shortwave heat flux and, to a lesser extent, the latent heat flux feedbacks are the dominant contributors to the change between TI and KE. The shortwave heat flux feedback differences are traced back to a modified distribution of the large-scale regimes of deep convection (negative feedback) and subsidence (positive feedback) in the east Pacific. These are further associated with the model systematic errors. It is argued that a systematic and detailed evaluation of atmosphere feedbacks during ENSO is a necessary step to fully understand its simulation in coupled GCMs.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:4320
Publisher:American Meteorological Society

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