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Predicting a Decadal Shift in North Atlantic Climate Variability Using the GFDL Forecast System

Author(s): Msadek, Rym; Delworth, Thomas L; Rosati, Anthony; Anderson, Whit; Vecchi, Gabriel A; et al

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Abstract: Decadal prediction experiments were conducted as part of phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) using the GFDL Climate Model, 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 the CM2.1 coupled system produces high skill in retrospectively predicting the mid-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 the mid-1990s warming. The successful initialized forecasts show an increased Atlantic meridional 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 the mean ITCZ. These climate anomalies are similar to those observed during a warm phase of the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation, which is encouraging for future predictions of North Atlantic climate.
Publication Date: 1-Sep-2014
Citation: Msadek, Rym, Thomas L. Delworth, Anthony Rosati, Whit Anderson, Gabriel A. Vecchi, You-Soon. Chang, Keith Dixon et al. "Predicting a decadal shift in North Atlantic climate variability using the GFDL forecast system." Journal of Climate 27, no. 17 (2014): 6472-6496. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00476.1.
DOI: doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00476.1
ISSN: 0894-8755
EISSN: 1520-0442
Pages: 6472 - 6496
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Journal of Climate
Version: Final published version. Article is made available in OAR by the publisher's permission or policy.

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