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Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences: Vol. 60, No. 15, pp. 1733–1753.

Coupling between Northward-Propagating, Intraseasonal Oscillations and Sea Surface Temperature in the Indian Ocean*

Xiouhua Fu, Bin Wang, Tim Li, and Julian P. McCreary

International Pacific Research Center, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

(Manuscript received 4 October 2002, in final form 24 February 2003)


Using a hybrid atmosphere–ocean coupled model, it is shown that during the boreal summer northward-propagating, intraseasonal oscillations (NPISOs) are strongly coupled to the underlying sea surface temperature (SST) in the Indian Ocean sector. On the one hand, the intraseasonal atmospheric convection changes the SST through solar radiation, latent heat flux, and mixed-layer entrainment; on the other, the induced SST fluctuations feed back to affect the intraseasonal convection. The preferential northward, rather than southward, propagation of boreal summer ISOs in the Indian Ocean is partially explained by an interaction among the summer-mean climate state, the atmospheric disturbances, and the ocean surface temperature.

A solution to an atmosphere-only model forced with daily SST produces much stronger NPISOs than a similar solution forced with monthly mean SST (AMIP-type run). The atmosphere-only model, however, even when it is forced by daily SST from the coupled model (with a small amount of noise in the initial and/or boundary conditions), is unable to reproduce the NPISOs in the coupled case. In the coupled system, intraseasonal SST anomalies are forced by intraseasonal atmospheric convection, and hence are in quadrature with the convection. In the stand-alone atmospheric model, however, SST acts only as a boundary forcing, and the resultant atmospheric convection has almost the same phase with the underlying SST. One consequence is that the intensity of the SST-forced intraseasonal convection in the stand-alone atmospheric model is considerably weaker than in the coupled model.

Finally, solutions indicate that the northward movement of the off-equatorial convection in the northern Indian Ocean is more closely related to local intraseasonal SST anomalies than to the equatorial eastward-moving Madden–Julian oscillation: Positive (negative) SST anomalies in the northern Indian Ocean lead the active (break) phases of the intraseasonal convection by about 2 pentads (10 days). Therefore, intraseasonal SST anomalies in the northern Indian Ocean are potentially a useful index to forecast active (break) spells of the south Asian summer monsoon.

© Copyright by American Meteorological Society 2003