A conceptual framework for time and space scale interactions in the climate system

G. A. Meehl, R. Lukas, G. N. Kiladis, K. M. Weickmann, A. J. Matthews, M. Wheeler

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Interactions involving various space and time scales, both within the tropics and between the tropics and midlatitudes, are ubiquitous in the climate system. The concept of longer time scales and larger space scales setting the base state for processes on shorter time scales and smaller space scales is explored. Decadal time scale base states of the coupled climate system set the context for the manifestation of interannual time scales (El Nino/Southern Oscillation, ENSO and tropospheric biennial oscillation, TBO) which are influenced by and interact with the annual cycle and seasonal time scales. Those base states in turn influence the large-scale coupled processes involved with intraseasonal and submonthly time scales, tied to tropical-tropical and tropical-midlatitude teleconnections. All of these set the base state for processes on the synoptic and mesoscale and regional/local space scales. Events at those relatively short time scales and small space scales may then affect the longer time scale and larger space scale processes in turn, reaching back out to submonthly, intraseasonal, seasonal, annual, TBO, ENSO and decadal. Global coupled models can capture some elements of the decadal, ENSO, TBO, annual and seasonal time scales with the associated global space scales. However, coupled models are less successful at simulating phenomena at subseasonal and shorter time scales with hemispheric and smaller space scales. Due to the synergistic interactions of the time and space scales, a high priority must be placed on improved simulations of all the time and space scales in the climate system (particularly the subseasonal time scales and hemispheric and smaller space scales which are not well simulated at present) if we hope to successfully forecast phenomena beyond the synoptic scales.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)753-775
Number of pages23
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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