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Barsugli, J. J., and D. S. Battisti, 1998: The basic effects of atmosphere-ocean thermal coupling on midlatitude variability. J. Atmos. Sci., 55, 477-493.


Starting from the assumption that the atmosphere is the primary source of variability internal to the midlatitude atmosphere-ocean system on intraseasonal to interannual timescales, the authors construct a simple stochastically forced, one-dimensional, linear, coupled energy balance model. The coupled system is then dissected into partially coupled and uncoupled systems in order to quantify the effects of coupling. The simplicity of the model allows for analytic evaluation of many quantities of interest, including power spectra, total variance, lag covariance between atmosphere and ocean, and surface flux spectra. The model predicts that coupling between the atmosphere and ocean in the midlatitudes will enhance the variance in both media and will decrease the energy flux between the atmosphere and the ocean. The model also demonstrates that specification of historical midlatitude sea surface temperature anomalies as a boundary condition for an atmospheric model will not generally lead to a correct simulation of low-frequency atmospheric thermal variance.

This model provides a simple conceptual framework for understanding the basic aspects of midlatitude coupled variability. Given the simplicity of the model, it agrees well with numerical simulations using a two-level atmospheric general circulation model coupled to a slab mixed layer ocean. The simple model results are also qualitatively consistent with the results obtained in several other studies in which investigators coupled realistic atmospheric general circulation models to ocean models of varying complexity. This suggests that the experimental design of an atmospheric model coupled to a mixed layer ocean model would provide a reasonable null hypothesis against which to test for the presence of distinctive decadal variability.