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How much of the interannual variability of East Asian summer rainfall is forced by SST?

He, Chao, Wu, Bo, Li, Chunhui, Lin, Ailan, Gu, Dejun, Zheng, Bin, Zhou, Tianjun
Climate dynamics 2016 v.47 no.1-2 pp. 555-565
General Circulation Models, basins, climate, climatology, latitude, rain, simulation models, summer, surface water temperature, variance, water vapor, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean
It is widely accepted that the interannual variability of East Asian summer rainfall is forced by sea surface temperature (SST), and SST anomalies are widely used as predictors of East Asian summer rainfall. But it is still not very clear what percentage of the interannual rainfall variability is contributed by SST anomalies. In this study, Atmospheric general circulation model simulations forced by observed interannual varying SST are compared with those forced by the fixed annual cycle of SST climatology, and their ratios of interannual variance (IAV) are analyzed. The output of 12 models from the 5th Phase of Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) are adopted, and idealized experiments are done by Community Atmosphere Model version 4 (CAM4). Both the multi-model median of CMIP5 models and CAM4 experiments show that only about 18 % of the IAV of rainfall over East Asian land (EAL) is explained by SST, which is significantly lower than the tropical western Pacific, but comparable to the mid-latitude western Pacific. There is no significant difference between the southern part and the northern part of EAL in the percentages of SST contribution. The remote SST anomalies regulates rainfall over EAL probably by modulating the horizontal water vapor transport rather than the vertical motion, since the horizontal water vapor transport into EAL is strongly modulated by SST but the vertical motion over EAL is not. Previous studies argued about the relative importance of tropical Indian Ocean and tropical Pacific Ocean to East Asian summer rainfall anomalies. Our idealized experiments performed by CAM4 suggest that the contributions from these two ocean basins are comparable to each other, both of which account for approximately 6 % of the total IAV of rainfall over EAL.