Roles of Indian and Pacific Ocean air-sea coupling in tropical atmospheric variability

Renguang Wu, Ben P. Kirtman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

167 Scopus citations


Sea surface temperature (SST) variations include negative feedbacks from the atmosphere, whereas SST anomalies are specified in stand-alone atmospheric general circulation simulations. Is the SST forced response the same as the coupled response? In this study, the importance of air-sea coupling in the Indian and Pacific Oceans for tropical atmospheric variability is investigated through numerical experiments with a coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model. The local and remote impacts of the Indian and Pacific Ocean coupling are obtained by comparing a coupled simulation with an experiment in which the SST forcing from the coupled simulation is specified in either the Indian or the Pacific Ocean. It is found that the Indian Ocean coupling is critical for atmospheric variability over the Pacific Ocean. Without the Indian Ocean coupling, the rainfall and SST variations are completely different throughout most of the Pacific Ocean basin. Without the Pacific Ocean coupling, part of the rainfall and SST variations in the Indian Ocean are reproduced in the forced run. In regions of large mean rainfall where the atmospheric negative feedback is strong, such as the North Indian Ocean and the western North Pacific in boreal summer, the atmospheric variability is significantly enhanced when air-sea coupling is replaced by specified SST forcing. This enhancement is due to the lack of the negative feedback in the forced SST simulation. In these regions, erroneous atmospheric anomalies could be induced by specified SST anomalies derived from the coupled model. The ENSO variability is reduced by about 20% when the Indian Ocean air-sea coupling is replaced by specified SST forcing. This change is attributed to the interfering roles of the Indian Ocean SST and Indian monsoon in western and central equatorial Pacific surface wind variations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-170
Number of pages16
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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