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Influence of surface nudging on climatological mean and ENSO feedbacks in a coupled model

Zhu, Jieshun, Kumar, Arun
Climate dynamics 2018 v.50 no.1-2 pp. 571-586
El Nino, basins, climate, climate models, climatology, diagnostic techniques, heat, prediction, surface temperature, wind
Studies have suggested that surface nudging could be an efficient way to reconstruct the subsurface ocean variability, and thus a useful method for initializing climate predictions (e.g., seasonal and decadal predictions). Surface nudging is also the basis for climate models with flux adjustments. In this study, however, some negative aspects of surface nudging on climate simulations in a coupled model are identified. Specifically, a low-resolution version of the NCEP Climate Forecast System, version 2 (CFSv2L) is used to examine the influence of nudging on simulations of climatological mean and on the coupled feedbacks during ENSO. The effect on ENSO feedbacks is diagnosed following a heat budget analysis of mixed layer temperature anomalies. Diagnostics of the climatological mean state indicates that, even though SST biases in all ocean basins, as expected, are eliminated, the fidelity of climatological precipitation, surface winds and subsurface temperature (or the thermocline depth) could be highly ocean basin dependent. This is exemplified by improvements in the climatology of these variables in the tropical Atlantic, but degradations in the tropical Pacific. Furthermore, surface nudging also distorts the dynamical feedbacks during ENSO. For example, while the thermocline feedback played a critical role during the evolution of ENSO in a free simulation, it only played a minor role in the nudged simulation. These results imply that, even though the simulation of surface temperature could be improved in a climate model with surface nudging, the physics behind might be unrealistic.