2023 journal article

Role of Ocean Advections during the Evolution of the Pacific Meridional Modes

JOURNAL OF CLIMATE, 36(13), 4327–4343.

co-author countries: China 🇨🇳 Japan 🇯🇵 United States of America 🇺🇸
author keywords: Pacific Ocean; Ocean dynamics; Atmosphere-ocean interaction; Sea surface temperature; Anomalies; Climate variability
Source: Web Of Science
Added: July 3, 2023

Abstract The Pacific meridional modes (PMMs) are the leading ocean–atmosphere coupled modes in the subtropical northeastern (NPMM) and southeastern (SPMM) Pacific, respectively, and have been suggested to be key precursors to equatorial Pacific variability. Previous studies pointed out that both NPMM- and SPMM-related sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies are primarily driven by net surface heat flux variations during their equatorward evolution. However, whether oceanic heat advective processes would play a role during the evolution remains unclear. To address this issue, we perform an ocean mixed layer heat budget analysis based on observations and three ocean reanalysis datasets, and then reveal the effect of ocean advections on the evolution by comparing a fully coupled dynamic ocean model (DOM) to a slab ocean model (SOM). Our results suggest that for the NPMM evolution, ocean advections—primarily by anomalous meridional Ekman heat advections driven by mean and anomalous zonal wind stresses—play a damping role in the south of the NPMM. Thus, the NPMM SST anomalies appear to instead exhibit a poleward shift, although still freely propagating westward from the preceding boreal winter to the following summer. This finding challenges the traditional view that the NPMM propagates equatorward through the wind–evaporation–SST feedback. For the SPMM evolution, ocean advections play a damping role in the center of the SPMM from boreal spring to summer, as well as an intensification role in the southwest Pacific during summer. However, the effect of the intensification on the SPMM evolution is hard to determine due to the strong simulation bias of the SPMM evolution in the DOM. Significance Statement While it is known that both NPMM- and SPMM-associated SST anomalies are primarily driven by net surface heat flux variations during their evolution, whether ocean advections would play a role remains unknown. Here, we show that ocean advections play a role in the evolution of both PMMs. In particular, for the NPMM evolution, ocean advections play a damping role in the south of the NPMM center, causing a tendency for the NPMM to be displaced northward. The role of ocean advection challenges the prevailing notion that the NPMM simply evolves equatorward through the wind–evaporation–SST feedback.