The effects of North Atlantic SST and sea ice anomalies on the winter circulation in CCM3. Part II: Direct and indirect components of the response Academic Article uri icon


  • The wintertime atmospheric circulation responses to observed patterns of North Atlantic sea surface temperature and sea ice cover trends in recent decades are studied by means of experiments with an atmospheric general circulation model. Here the relationship between the forced responses and the dominant pattern of internally generated atmospheric variability is focused on. The total response is partioned into a portion that projects onto the leading mode of internal variability (the indirect response) and a portion that is the residual from that projection (the direct response). This empirical decomposition yields physically meaningful patterns whose distinctive horizontal and vertical structures imply different governing mechanisms. The indirect response, which dominates the total geopotential height response, is hemispheric in scale with resemblance to the North Atlantic Oscillation or Northern Hemisphere annular mode, and equivalent barotropic in the vertical from the surface to the tropopause. In contrast. the direct response is localized to the vicinity of the surface thermal anomaly (SST or sea ice) and exhibits a baroclinic structure in the vertical, with a surface trough and upper-level ridge in the case of a positive heating anomaly, consistent with theoretical models of the linear baroclinic response to extratropical thermal forcing. Both components of the response scale linearly with respect to the amplitude of the forcing but nonlinearly with respect to the polarity of the forcing. The deeper vertical penetration of anomalous heating compared to cooling is suggested to play a role in the nonlinearity of the response to SST forcing. 2004 American Meteorological Society.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Deser, C., Magnusdottir, G., Saravanan, R., & Phillips, A.

citation count

  • 236

complete list of authors

  • Deser, C||Magnusdottir, G||Saravanan, R||Phillips, A

publication date

  • January 1, 2004 11:11 AM