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Can large scale surface circulation changes modulate the sea surface warming pattern in the Tropical Indian Ocean?

Rahul, S and Gnanaseelan, C (2016) Can large scale surface circulation changes modulate the sea surface warming pattern in the Tropical Indian Ocean? Climate Dynamics, 46 (11). pp. 3617-3632.

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The increased rate of Tropical Indian Ocean (TIO) surface warming has gained a lot of attention in the recent years mainly due to its regional climatic impacts. The processes associated with this increased surface warming is highly complex and none of the mechanisms in the past studies could comprehend the important features associated with this warming such as the negative trends in surface net heat fluxes and the decreasing temperature trends at thermocline level. In this work we studied a previously unexplored aspect, the changes in large scale surface circulation pattern modulating the surface warming pattern over TIO. We use ocean reanalysis datasets and a suit of Ocean General Circulation Model (OGCM) experiments to address this problem. Both reanalysis and OGCM reveal strengthening large scale surface circulation pattern in the recent years. The most striking feature is the intensification of cyclonic gyre circulation around the thermocline ridge in the southwestern TIO. The surface circulation change in TIO is mainly associated with the surface wind changes and the geostrophic response to sea surface height decrease in the western/southwestern TIO. The surface wind trends closely correspond to SST warming pattern. The strengthening mean westerlies over the equatorial region are conducive to convergence in the central and divergence in the western equatorial Indian Ocean (IO) resulting central warming and western cooling. The resulting east west SST gradient further enhances the equatorial westerlies. This positive feedback mechanism supports strengthening of the observed SST trends in the equatorial Indian Ocean. The cooling induced by the enhanced upwelling in the west is compensated to a large extent by warming due to reduction in mixed layer depth, thereby keeping the surface temperature trends in the west to weak positive values. The OGCM experiments showed that the wind induced circulation changes redistribute the excess heat received in the western TIO to central and east thereby enhancing warming in the central equatorial IO. The increased surface warming in central TIO increases the latent heat loss, and keeps the net heat flux trends negative. Model sensitivity experiments reveal that the subsurface cooling at thermocline level in TIO is contributed by variability in Pacific via Indonesian Through Flow whereas the surface warming trend is mainly induced by the changes in the local forcing. The long term changes in IO Rossby waves are not induced by local atmospheric forcing but are forced by Pacific. The thermocline shoaling in the west is therefore amplified by the remote influence of Pacific via wave transmission through Indonesian archipelago.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to Springer International Publishing
Subjects: Meteorology and Climatology
Depositing User: IITM Library
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2017 09:12
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2017 09:12

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