Articles | Volume 10, issue 5
Research article
23 Oct 2014
Research article |  | 23 Oct 2014

Evaluation of the eastern equatorial Pacific SST seasonal cycle in CMIP5 models

Z. Y. Song, H. L. Liu, C. Z. Wang, L. P. Zhang, and F. L. Qiao

Abstract. The annual cycle of sea surface temperature (SST) in the eastern equatorial Pacific (EEP) has the largest amplitude in the tropical oceans, but it is poorly represented in the coupled general circulation models (CGCMs) of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 3 (CMIP3). In this study, 18 models from CMIP5 are evaluated in terms of their capability of simulating the SST annual cycle in the EEP. Fourteen models are able to simulate the annual cycle fairly well, which suggests that the performances of CGCMs have been improved. The results of multi-model ensemble (MME) mean show that CMIP5 CGCMs can capture the annual cycle signal in the EEP with a correlation coefficient up to 0.9. Moreover, the CMIP5 models can simulate the westward propagation character of the EEP SST – in particular, EEP region 1 (EP1) near the eastern coast leading EEP region 2 (EP2) near the central equatorial Pacific by 1 to 2 months in spring. However, the models fail to reproduce the in-phase SST relationship between EP1 and EP2 in August and September. For amplitude simulations, the model SST in EP1 shows weaker seasonal variation than the observations due to the large warm SST biases from the southeastern tropical Pacific in the boreal autumn. In EP2, the simulated SST amplitudes are nearly the same as the observations while there is the presence of a quasi-constant cold bias associated with poor cold tongue simulation in the CGCMs. To improve CGCM simulation of a realistic SST seasonal cycle, local and remote SST biases that exist in both CMIP3 and CMIP5 CGCMs must be resolved at least for simulating the SSTs in the central equatorial Pacific and the southeastern tropical Pacific.