The influence of the Amundsen–Bellingshausen Seas low on the climate of West Antarctica and its representation in coupled climate model simulations

In contrast to earlier studies, the authors describe the climatological deep low pressure system that exists over the South Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean, referred to as the Amundsen–Bellingshausen Seas low (ABSL), in terms of its relative (rather than actual) central pressure by removing the background area-averaged mean sea level pressure (MSLP). Doing so removes much of the influence of large-scale variability across the ABSL sector region (e.g., due to the southern annular mode), allowing a clearer understanding of ABSL variability and its effect on the regional climate of West Antarctica. Using ECMWF Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) fields, the annual cycle of the relative central pressure of the ABSL for the period from 1979 to 2011 shows a minimum (maximum) during winter (summer), differing considerably from the earlier studies based on actual central pressure, which suggests a semiannual oscillation. The annual cycle of the longitudinal position of the ABSL is insensitive to the background pressure, and shows it shifting westward from 250° to 220°E between summer and winter, in agreement with earlier studies. The authors demonstrate that ABSL variability, and in particular its longitudinal position, play an important role in controlling the surface climate of West Antarctica and the surrounding ocean by quantifying its influence on key meteorological parameters. Examination of the ABSL annual cycle in 17 CMIP5 climate models run with historical forcing shows that the majority of them have definite biases, especially in terms of longitudinal position, and a correspondingly poor representation of West Antarctic climate.


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Authors: Hosking, J. Scott, Orr, Andrew, Marshall, Gareth J., Turner, John, Phillips, Tony

On this site: Andrew Orr, Gareth Marshall, Scott Hosking, John Turner, Tony Phillips
1 September, 2013
Journal of Climate / 26
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