The Asian-Australian monsoon and El Nino-Southern Oscillation in the NCAR climate system model

Gerald A. Meehl, Julie M. Arblaster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

111 Citations (Scopus)


Features associated with the Asian-Australian monsson system and El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are described in the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) global coupled Climate System Model (CSM). Simulation characteristics are compared with a version of the atmospheric component of the CSM, the NCAR CCM3, run with time-evolving SSTs from 1950 to 1994, and with observations. The CSM is shown to represent most major features of the monsoon system in terms of mean climatology, interannual variability, and connections to the tropical Pacific. This includes a representation of the Southern Oscillation links between strong Asian-Australian monsoons and associated negative SST anomalies in the eastern equatorial Pacific. The equatorial SST gradient across the Pacific in the CSM is shown to be similar to the observed with somewhat cooler mean SSTs across the entire Pacific by about 1°-2°C. The seasonal cycle of SSTs in the eastern equatorial Pacific has the characteristic signature seen in the observations of relatively warmer SSTs propagating westward in the first half of the year followed by the reestablishment of the cold tongue with relatively colder SSTs propagating westward in the second half of the year. Like other global coupled models, the propagation is similar to the observed but with the establishment of the relatively warmer water in the first half of the year occurring about 1-2 months later than observed. The seasonal cycle of precipitation in the tropical eastern Pacific is also similar to other global coupled models in that there is a tendency for a stronger-than-observed double ITCZ year round, particularly in northern spring, but with a well-reproduced annual maximum of ITCZ strength north of the equator in the second half of the year. Time series of area-averaged SSTs for the NINO3 region in the eastern equatorial Pacific show that the CSM is producing about 60% of the amplitude of the observed variability in that region, consistent with most other global coupled models. Global correlations between NINO3 time series, global surface temperatures, and sea level pressure (SLP) show that the CSM qualitatively reproduces the major spatial patterns associated with the Southern Oscillation (lower SLP in the central and eastern tropical Pacific when NINO3 SSTs are relatively warmer and higher SLP over the far western Pacific and Indian Oceans, with colder water in the northwest and southwest Pacific). Indices of Asian-Australian monsoon strength are negatively correlated with NINO3 SSTs as in the observations. Spectra of time series of Indian monsoon, Australian monsoon, and NINO3 SST indices from the CSM show amplitude peaks in the Southern Oscillation and tropospheric biennial oscillation frequencies (3-6 yr and about 2.3 yr, respectively) as observed. Lag correlations between the NINO3 SST index and upper-ocean heat content along the equator show eastward propagation of heat content anomalies with a phase speed of about 0.3 m s-1, compared to observed values of roughly 0.2 m s-1. Composites of El Nino (La Nina) events in the CSM show similar seasonal evolution to composites of observed events with warming (cooling) of greater than several tenths of a degree beginning early in northern spring of year 0 and diminishing around northern spring of year +1, but with a secondary resugence in the CSM events later in northern spring of year +1. The CSM also shows the largest amplitude ENSO SST and low-level wind anomalies in the western tropical Pacific, with enhanced interannual variability of SSTs extending northeastward and southeastward toward the subtropics, compared to largest interannual SST variability in the central and eastern tropical Pacific in the observations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1356-1385
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1998
Externally publishedYes

Cite this