Tropical Pacific internal atmospheric dynamics and resolution in a coupled GCM

Hosmay Lopez, Ben P. Kirtman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


A noise reduction technique, namely the interactive ensemble (IE) approach is adopted to reduce noise at the air–sea interface due to internal atmospheric dynamics in a state-of-the-art coupled general circulation model (CGCM). The IE technique uses multiple realization of atmospheric general circulation models coupled to a single ocean general circulation model. The ensembles mean fluxes from the atmospheric simulations are communicated to the ocean component. Each atmospheric simulation receives the same SST coming from the ocean component. The only difference among the atmospheric simulations comes from perturbed initial conditions, thus the atmospheric states are, in principle synoptically independent. The IE technique can be used to better understand the importance of weather noise forcing of natural variability such as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). To study the impact of weather noise and resolution in the context of a CGCM, two IE experiments are performed at different resolutions. Atmospheric resolution is an important issue since the noise statistics will depend on the spatial scales resolved. A simple formulation to extract atmospheric internal variability is presented. The results are compared to their respective control cases where internal atmospheric variability is left unchanged. The noise reduction has a major impact on the coupled simulation and the magnitude of this effect strongly depends on the horizontal resolution of the atmospheric component model. Specifically, applying the noise reduction technique reduces the overall climate variability more effectively at higher resolution. This suggests that “weather noise” is more important in sustaining climate variability as resolution increases. ENSO statistics, dynamics, and phase asymmetry are all modified by the noise reduction, in particular ENSO becomes more regular with less phase asymmetry when noise is reduced. All these effects are more marked for the higher resolution case. In contrast, ENSO frequency is unchanged by the reduction in the weather noise, but its phase-locking to the annual cycle is strongly dependent on noise and resolution. At low resolution the noise structure is similar to the signal, whereas the spatial structure of the noise deviates from the spatial structure of the signal as resolution increases. It is also suggested that event-to-event differences are largely driven by atmospheric noise as opposed to chaotic dynamics within the context of the large-scale coupled system, suggesting that there is a well-defined “canonical” event.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-527
Number of pages19
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Atmospheric noise
  • Climate simulations
  • Couple models
  • ENSO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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