The intraseasonal oscillation in ECHAM4 Part I: Coupled to a comprehensive ocean model

S. Liess, L. Bengtsson, K. Arpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


This study discusses the representation of the intraseasonal oscillation (ISO) in three simulations with the ECHAM4 atmosphere general circulation model (GCM). First, the model is forced by AMIP sea surface temperatures (SST), then coupled to the OPYC3 global ocean GCM and third forced by OPYC3 SSTs to clarify possible air-sea interactions and connections of the ISO and the ENSO cycle. The simulations are compared to ECMWF reanalysis data and NOAA outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) observations. Although previous studies have shown that the ECHAM4 GCM simulates an ISO-like oscillation, the main deficits are an overly fast eastward propagation and an eastward displacement of the main ISO activity, which is shown with a composite analysis of daily data between 1984 to 1988 for the reanalysis and the AMIP simulation, 25 years of the coupled integration, and a five year subset of the coupled SST output used for the OPYC3 forced atmosphere GCM experiment. These deficits are common to many atmospheric GCMs. The composites are obtained by principal oscillation pattern (POP). The POPs are also used to investigate the propagation speed and the interannual variability of the main ISO activity. The present coupled model version reveals no clear improvements in the ISO simulation compared to the uncoupled version forced with OPYC3 SSTs, although it is shown that the modeled ISO influences the simulated high-frequency SST variability in the coupled GCM. Within the current analysis, ECHAM4 forced by AMIP SSTs provides the most reasonable ISO simulation. However, it is shown that the maximum amplitudes of the annual cycle of the ISO variability in all analyzed model versions are reached too late in the year (spring and summer) compared to the observations (winter and spring). Additionally, the ENSO cycle influences the interannual variability of the ISO, which is revealed by 20 years of daily reanalysis data and 100 years of the coupled integration. The ENSO cycle is simulated by the coupled model, although there is a roughly 1 K cold bias in the East Pacific in the coupled model. This leads to a diminished influence of the ENSO cycle on the spatial variability of the modeled ISO activity compared to observations. This points out the strong sensitivity of the SST on the ISO activity. Small biases in the SST appear to cause large deterioration in the modeled ISO.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-669
Number of pages17
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number6-7
StatePublished - Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes


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