Publications by Laure Zanna


Seasonal and decadal forecasts of Atlantic Sea surface temperatures using a linear inverse model

Climate Dynamics Springer Verlag 49 (2016) 1833–1845-

B Huddart, A Subramanian, L Zanna, T Palmer

Predictability of Atlantic Ocean sea surface temperatures (SST) on seasonal and decadal timescales is investigated using a suite of statistical linear inverse models (LIM). Observed monthly SST anomalies in the Atlantic sector (between 22(Formula presented.)S and 66(Formula presented.)N) are used to construct the LIMs for seasonal and decadal prediction. The forecast skills of the LIMs are then compared to that from two current operational forecast systems. Results indicate that the LIM has good forecast skill for time periods of 3–4 months on the seasonal timescale with enhanced predictability in the spring season. On decadal timescales, the impact of inter-annual and intra-annual variability on the predictability is also investigated. The results show that the suite of LIMs have forecast skill for about 3–4 years over most of the domain when we use only the decadal variability for the construction of the LIM. Including higher frequency variability helps improve the forecast skill and maintains the correlation of LIM predictions with the observed SST anomalies for longer periods. These results indicate the importance of temporal scale interactions in improving predictability on decadal timescales. Hence, LIMs can not only be used as benchmarks for estimates of statistical skill but also to isolate contributions to the forecast skills from different timescales, spatial scales or even model components.


Drivers of uncertainty in simulated ocean circulation and heat uptake

Geophysical Research Letters Wiley 44 (2017) 1402-1413

MB Huber, L Zanna

The impact of uncertainties in air-sea fluxes and ocean model parameters on the ocean circulation and ocean heat uptake (OHU) is assessed in a novel modeling framework. We use an ocean-only model forced with the simulated sea surface fields of the CMIP5 climate models. The simulations are performed using control and 1% CO 2 warming scenarios. The ocean-only ensemble adequately reproduces the mean Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and the zonally integrated OHU. The ensemble spread in AMOC strength, its weakening, and Atlantic OHU due to different air-sea fluxes is twice as large as the uncertainty range related to vertical and mesocale eddy diffusivities. The sensitivity of OHU to uncertainties in air-sea fluxes and model parameters differs vastly across basins, with the Southern Ocean exhibiting strong sensitivity to air-sea fluxes and model parameters. This study clearly demonstrates that model biases in air-sea fluxes are one of the key sources of uncertainty in climate simulations.


Oceanic stochastic parametrizations in a seasonal forecast system

Monthly Weather Review American Meteorological Society 144 (2016) 1867-1875

M Andrejczuk, FC Cooper, S Juricke, TN Palmer, A Weisheimer, L Zanna

Stochastic parametrization provides a methodology for representing model uncertainty in ensemble forecasts. Here we study the impact of three existing stochastic parametrizations in the ocean component of a coupled model, on forecast reliability over seasonal timescales. The relative impacts of these schemes upon the ocean mean state and ensemble spread are analyzed. The oceanic variability induced by the atmospheric forcing of the coupled system is, in most regions, the major source of ensemble spread. The largest impact on spread and bias came from the Stochastically Perturbed Parametrization Tendency (SPPT) scheme - which has proven particularly effective in the atmosphere. The key regions affected are eddy-active regions, namely the western boundary currents and the Southern Ocean where ensemble spread is increased. However, unlike its impact in the atmosphere, SPPT in the ocean did not result in a significant decrease in forecast error. Whilst there are good grounds for implementing stochastic schemes in ocean models, our results suggest that they will have to be more sophisticated. Some suggestions for next-generation stochastic schemes are made.


The signature of low frequency oceanic forcing in the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation

Geophysical Research Letters American Geophysical Union 43 (2016) 2810–2818-

CH O'Reilly, MB Huber, TJ Woollings, LE Zanna

The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) significantly influences the climate of the surrounding continents and has previously been attributed to variations in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Recently, however, similar multidecadal variability was reported in climate models without ocean circulation variability. We analyse the relationship between turbulent heat fluxes and SSTs over the midlatitude North Atlantic in observations and coupled climate model simulations, both with and without ocean circulation variability. SST anomalies associated with the AMO are positively correlated with heat fluxes on decadal time-scales in both observations and models with varying ocean circulation, whereas in models without ocean circulation variability the anomalies are negatively correlated when heat flux anomalies lead. These relationships are captured in a simple stochastic model and rely crucially on low frequency forcing of SST. The fully coupled models that better capture this signature more effectively reproduce the observed impact of the AMO on European summertime temperatures.


The influence of Southern Ocean winds on the North Atlantic carbon sink

Global Biogeochemical Cycles Wiley 30 (2016) 844-858

B Bronselaer, L Zanna, DR Munday, J Lowe

Observed and predicted increases in Southern Ocean winds are thought to upwell deep ocean carbon and increase atmospheric CO2. However, Southern Ocean dynamics affect biogeochemistry and circulation pathways on a global scale. Using idealised MITgcm simulations, we demonstrate that an increase in Southern Ocean winds reduces the carbon sink in the North Atlantic sub-polar gyre. The increase in atmospheric CO2 due to the reduction of the North Atlantic carbon sink is shown to be of the same magnitude as the increase in atmospheric CO2 due to Southern Ocean outgassing. The mechanism can be described as follows: The increase in Southern Ocean winds leads to an increase in upper ocean northward nutrient transport. Biological productivity is therefore enhanced in the tropics, which alters the chemistry of the sub-thermocline waters that are ultimately upwelled in the subpolar gyre. The results demonstrate the influence of Southern Ocean winds on the North Atlantic carbon sink and show that the effect of Southern Ocean winds on atmospheric CO2 is likely twice as large as previously thought in past, present, and future climates.


Suppression of Atlantic meridional overturning circulation variability at increased CO2

Journal of Climate American Meteorological Society 29 (2016) 4155-4164

DG MacMartin, L Zanna, E Tziperman

Multidecadal variability in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) is shown to differ significantly between the 4 × CO2 and preindustrial control simulations of the GFDL Earth System Model, version 2M (ESM2M) general circulation model (GCM). In the preindustrial simulation, this model has a peak in the power spectrum of both AMOC and northward heat transport at latitudes between 26° and 50°N. In the 4 × CO2 simulation, the only significant spectral peak is near 60°N. Understanding these differences is important for understanding the effect of future climate change on climate variability, as well as for providing insight into the physics underlying AMOC variability. Transfer function analysis demonstrates that the shift is predominantly due to a shift in the internal ocean dynamics rather than a change in stochastic atmospheric forcing. Specifically, the reduction in variance from 26° to 45°N is due to an increased stratification east of Newfoundland that results from the shallower and weaker mean overturning. The reduced AMOC variance that accompanies the reduced mean value of the AMOC at 4 × CO2 differs from predictions of simple box models that predict a weaker circulation to be closer to a stability bifurcation point and, therefore, be accompanied by amplified variability. The high-latitude variability in the 4 × CO2 simulation is related to the advection of anomalies by the subpolar gyre, distinct from the variability mechanism in the control simulation at lower latitudes. The 4 × CO2 variability has only a small effect on midlatitude meridional heat transport, but does significantly affect sea ice in the northern North Atlantic.


Optimisation of an idealised ocean model, stochastic parameterisation of sub-grid eddies

Ocean Modelling (2015)

FC Cooper, L Zanna


Toward a Stochastic Parameterization of Ocean Mesoscale Eddies

Ocean Modelling (2014)

PGL Porta Mana, L Zanna


A conceptual model of ocean heat uptake under climate change

Journal of Climate (2014) 140915145750003-140915145750003

DP Marshall, L Zanna


Frequency Domain Multimodel Analysis of the Response of Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation to Surface Forcing

Journal of Climate American Meteorological Society 26 (2013) 8323-8340

DG MacMartin, E Tziperman, L Zanna

<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title> <jats:p>The dynamics of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) vary considerably among different climate models; for example, some models show clear peaks in their power spectra while others do not. To elucidate these model differences, transfer functions are used to estimate the frequency domain relationship between surface forcing fields, including sea surface temperature, salinity, and wind stress, and the resulting AMOC response. These are estimated from the outputs of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) and phase 3 (CMIP3) control runs for eight different models, with a specific focus on Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model, version 2.1 (GFDL CM2.1), and the Community Climate System Model, version 4 (CCSM4), which exhibit rather different spectral behavior. The transfer functions show very little agreement among models for any of the pairs of variables considered, suggesting the existence of systematic model errors and that considerable uncertainty in the simulation of AMOC in current climate models remains. However, a robust feature of the frequency domain analysis is that models with spectral peaks in their AMOC correspond to those in which AMOC variability is more strongly excited by high-latitude surface perturbations that have periods corresponding to the frequency of the spectral peaks. This explains why different models exhibit such different AMOC variability. These differences would not be evident without using a method that explicitly computes the frequency dependence rather than a priori assuming a particular functional form. Finally, transfer functions are used to evaluate two proposed physical mechanisms for model differences in AMOC variability: differences in Labrador Sea stratification and excitation by westward-propagating subsurface Rossby waves.</jats:p>


Singular vectors, predictability and ensemble forecasting for weather and climate

Journal of Physics A: Math. Theor. 46 (2013) 254018

TN Palmer, L Zanna


Tide-surge adjoint modeling: A new technique to understand forecast uncertainty

Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans American Geophysical Union (AGU) 118 (2013) 5092-5108

C Wilson, KJ Horsburgh, J Williams, J Flowerdew, L Zanna


Upper-ocean singular vectors of the North Atlantic climate with implications for linear predictability and variability

Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 138 (2012) 500-513

L Zanna, P Heimbach, AM Moore, E Tziperman

The limits of predictability of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) and upper-ocean temperatures due to errors in ocean initial conditions and model parametrizations are investigated in an idealized configuration of an ocean general circulation model (GCM). Singular vectors (optimal perturbations) are calculated using the GCM, its tangent linear and adjoint models to determine an upper bound on the predictability of North Atlantic climate. The maximum growth time-scales of MOC and upper-ocean temperature anomalies, excited by the singular vectors, are 18.5 and 13 years respectively and in part explained by the westward propagation of upper-ocean anomalies against the mean flow. As a result of the linear interference of non-orthogonal eigenmodes of the non-normal dynamics, the ocean dynamics are found to actively participate in the significant growth of the anomalies. An initial density perturbation of merely 0.02 kg m -3 is found to lead to a 1.7 Sv MOC anomaly after 18.5 years. In addition, Northern Hemisphere upper-ocean temperature perturbations can be amplified by a factor of 2 after 13 years. The growth of upper-ocean temperature and MOC anomalies is slower and weaker when excited by the upper-ocean singular vectors than when the deep ocean is perturbed. This leads to the conclusion that predictability experiments perturbing only the atmospheric initial state may overestimate the predictability time. Interestingly, optimal MOC and upper-ocean temperature excitations are only weakly correlated, thus limiting the utility of SST observations to infer MOC variability. The excitation of anomalies in this model might have a crucial impact on the variability and predictability of Atlantic climate. The limit of predictability of the MOC is found to be different from that of the upper-ocean heat content, emphasizing that errors in ocean initial conditions will affect various measures differently and such uncertainties should be carefully considered in decadal prediction experiments. © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society.


Upper-ocean singular vectors of the North Atlantic climate with implications for linear predictability and variability

Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society (2011)

L Zanna, P Heimbach, AM Moore, E Tziperman


Forecast Skill and Predictability of Observed Atlantic Sea Surface Temperatures

J. of Climate 25 (2012) 5047-5056

L Zanna


Optimal excitation of interannual atlantic meridional overturning circulation variability

Journal of Climate 24 (2011) 413-427

L Zanna, P Heimbach, AM Moore, E Tziperman

The optimal excitation of Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (MOC) anomalies is investigated in an ocean general circulation model with an idealized configuration. The optimal three-dimensional spatial structure of temperature and salinity perturbations, defined as the leading singular vector and generating the maximum amplification of MOC anomalies, is evaluated by solving a generalized eigenvalue problem using tangent linear and adjoint models. Despite the stable linearized dynamics, a large amplification of MOC anomalies, mostly due to the interference of nonnormal modes, is initiated by the optimal perturbations. The largest amplification of MOC anomalies, found to be excited by high-latitude deep density perturbations in the northern part of the basin, is achieved after about 7.5 years. The anomalies grow as a result of a conversion of mean available potential energy into potential and kinetic energy of the perturbations, reminiscent of baroclinic instability. The time scale of growth of MOC anomalies can be understood by examining the time evolution of deep zonal density gradients, which are related to the MOC via the thermal wind relation. The velocity of propagation of the density anomalies, found to depend on the horizontal component of the mean flow velocity and the mean density gradient, determines the growth time scale of the MOC anomalies and therefore provides an upper bound on the MOC predictability time. The results suggest that the nonnormal linearized ocean dynamics can give rise to enhanced MOC variability if, for instance, overflows, eddies, and/or deep convection can excite high-latitude density anomalies in the ocean interior with a structure resembling that of the optimal perturbations found in this study. The findings also indicate that errors in ocean initial conditions or in model parameterizations or processes, particularly at depth, may significantly reduce the AtlanticMOC predictability time to less than a decade. © 2011 American Meteorological Society.


Ocean Model Uncertainty in Climate Prediction

ECMWF Proceedings (2011)

L Zanna


The role of ocean dynamics in the optimal growth of tropical SST anomalies

Journal of Physical Oceanography 40 (2010) 983-1003

L Zanna, P Heimbach, AM Moore, E Tziperman

The role of ocean dynamics in optimally exciting interannual variability of tropical sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies is investigated using an idealized-geometry ocean general circulation model. Initial temperature and salinity perturbations leading to an optimal growth of tropical SST anomalies, typically arising from the nonnormal dynamics, are evaluated. The structure of the optimal perturbations is characterized by relatively strong deep salinity anomalies near the western boundary generating a transient amplification of equatorial SST anomalies in less than four years. The associated growth mechanism is linked to the excitation of coastal and equatorial Kelvin waves near the western boundary following a rapid geostrophic adjustment owing to the optimal initial temperature and salinity perturbations. The results suggest that the nonnormality of the ocean dynamics may efficiently create large tropical SST variability on interannual time scales in the Atlantic without the participation of air-sea processes or the meridional overturning circulation. An optimal deep initial salinity perturbation of 0.1 ppt located near the western boundary can result in a tropical SST anomaly of approximately 0.458C after nearly four years, assuming the dynamics are linear. Possible mechanisms for exciting such deep perturbations are discussed. While this study is motivated by tropical Atlantic SST variability, its relevance to other basins is not excluded. The optimal initial conditions leading to the tropical SST anomalies' growth are obtained by solving a generalized eigenvalue problem. The evaluation of the optimals is achieved by using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology general circulation model (MITgcm) tangent linear and adjoint models as well the the Arnoldi Package (ARPACK) software for solving large-scale eigenvalue problems. © 2010 American Meteorological Society.


Optimal surface excitation of the thermohaline circulation

Journal of Physical Oceanography 38 (2008) 1820-1830

L Zanna, E Tziperman

The amplification of thermohaline circulation (THC) anomalies resulting from heat and freshwater forcing at the ocean surface is investigated in a zonally averaged coupled ocean-atmosphere model. Optimal initial conditions of surface temperature and salinity leading to the largest THC growth are computed, and so are the structures of stochastic surface temperature and salinity forcing that excite maximum THC variance (stochastic optimals). When the THC amplitude is defined as its sum of squares (equivalent to using the standard L2 norm), the nonnormal linearized dynamics lead to an amplification with a time scale on the order of 100 yr. The optimal initial conditions have a vanishing THC anomaly, and the complex amplification mechanism involves the advection of both temperature and salinity anomalies by the mean flow and of the mean temperature and salinity by the anomaly flow. The L2 characterization of THC anomalies leads to physically interesting results, yet to a mathematically singular problem. A novel alternative characterizing the THC amplitude by its maximum value, as often done in general circulation model studies, is therefore introduced. This complementary method is shown to be equivalent to using the L-infinity norm, and the needed mathematical approach is developed and applied to the THC problem. Under this norm, an amplification occurs within 10 yr explained by the classic salinity advective feedback mechanism. The analysis of the stochastic optimals shows that the character of the THC variability may be very sensitive to the spatial pattern of the surface forcing. In particular, a maximum THC variance and long-time-scale variability are excited by a basin-scale surface forcing pattern, while a significantly higher frequency and to some extent a weaker variability are induced by a smooth and large-scale, yet mostly concentrated in polar areas, surface forcing pattern. Overall, the results suggest that a large THC variability can be efficiently excited by atmospheric surface forcing, and the simple model used here makes several predictions that would be interesting to test using more complex models. © 2008 American Meteorological Society.


Nonnormal thermohaline circulation dynamics in a coupled ocean-atmosphere GCM

Journal of Physical Oceanography 38 (2008) 588-604

E Tziperman, L Zanna, C Penland

Using the GFDL coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model CM2.1, the transient amplification of thermohaline circulation (THC) anomalies due to its nonnormal dynamics is studied. A reduced space based on empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) of temperature and salinity anomaly fields in the North Atlantic is constructed. Under the assumption that the dynamics of this reduced space is linear, the propagator of the system is then evaluated and the transient growth of THC anomalies analyzed. Although the linear dynamics are stable, such that any initial perturbation eventually decays, nonnormal effects are found to result in a significant transient growth of temperature, salinity, and THC anomalies. The growth time scale for these anomalies is between 5 and 10 yr, providing an estimate of the predictability time of the North Atlantic THC in this model. There are indications that these results are merely a lower bound on the nonnormality of THC dynamics in the present coupled GCM. This seems to suggest that such nonnormal effects should be seriously considered if the predictability of the THC is to be quantitatively evaluated from models or observations. The methodology presented here may be used to produce initial perturbations to the ocean state that may result in a stricter estimate of ocean and THC predictability than the common procedure of initializing with an identical ocean state and a perturbed atmosphere. © 2008 American Meteorological Society.

Pages