Local and remote causes of the equatorial Pacific cold sea surface temperature bias in the Kiel Climate Model

Seminar by Prof. Zhaoyang Song from Sun Yat-sen University (Zhuhai Campus)

05 December 2023
KST 15:30 – 16:30

The Seminar is being held in Room 1010 (Jasmin) – Integrated mechanical engineering building. Click here for the campus map.

We investigate the origin of the equatorial Pacific cold sea surface temperature (SST) bias and its link to wind biases, local and remote, in the Kiel Climate Model (KCM). The cold bias is common in climate models participating in the 5thand 6th phases of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. In the coupled experiments with the KCM, the interannually varying NCEP/CFSR wind stress is prescribed over four spatial domains: globally, over the equatorial Pacific (EP), the northern Pacific (NP) and southern Pacific (SP). The corresponding EP SST bias is reduced by 100%, 52%, 12% and 23%, respectively. Thus, the EP SST bias is mainly attributed to the local wind bias, with small but not negligible contributions from the extratropical regions. Erroneous ocean circulation driven by overly strong winds cause the cold SST bias, while the surface-heat flux counteracts it. Extratropical Pacific SST biases contribute to the EP cold bias via the oceanic subtropical gyres, which is further enhanced by dynamical coupling in the equatorial region.

The origin of the wind biases is examined by forcing the atmospheric component of the KCM in a stand-alone mode with observed SSTs and simulated SSTs from the coupled experiments. Wind biases over the EP, NP and SP regions originate in the atmosphere model. The cold EP SST bias substantially enhances the wind biases over all three regions, while the NP and SP SST biases support local amplification of the wind bias. This study suggests that improving surface-wind stress, at and off the equator, is a key to improve mean-state equatorial Pacific SST in climate models.