This project seeks to understand the impact of fluctuations of the western boundary currents in the North Pacific on the midlatitude atmospheric circulation and the weather patterns embedded in it. Specifically, the project uses high-resolution datasets and atmospheric model simulations to understand how shifts in the oceanic fronts (regions of strong sea surface temperature contrast) along the eastern extensions of the Kuroshio and Oyashio currents affect the overlying atmosphere. The potential influence of such sea surface temperature variations on atmospheric circulation has been an active research topic for many years, with inconclusive results. However, recent observations suggest that strong sea surface temperature contrasts over short spatial scales can affect local surface winds, and model simulations suggest that higher model resolution is a key ingredient in properly simulating such effects. Thus, research conducted here will attempt to resolve the issue of the atmospheric impact of current-driven fluctuations of North Pacific oceanic fronts using new high-resolution datasets and model simulations.
Since ocean currents vary more slowly than midlatitude weather patterns, a strong impact of ocean current fluctuations on the overlying atmosphere could imply that some portion of atmospheric variability is accessible to long-range prediction. Such a finding would be beneficial for long-range weather prediction, particularly in the Western United States. In addition, the work will support and mentor a postdoctoral researcher, thus supporting the early career of an atmospheric scientist.