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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2020-70
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2020-70
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  28 Sep 2020

28 Sep 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ESD.

Synchronized spatial shifts of Hadley and Walker circulations

Kyung-Sook Yun1,2, Axel Timmermann1,2, and Malte F. Stuecker3 Kyung-Sook Yun et al.
  • 1Center for Climate Physics, Institute for Basic Science (IBS), Busan 46241, South Korea
  • 2Pusan National University, Busan 46241, South Korea
  • 3Department of Oceanography and International Pacific Research Center, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI, USA

Abstract. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) influences the most extensive tropospheric circulation cells on our planet, known as Hadley and Walker circulations. Previous studies have largely focused on the effect of ENSO on the strength of these cells. However, what has remained uncertain is whether interannual sea surface temperature anomalies can also cause synchronized spatial shifts of these circulations. Here, by examining the spatio-temporal relationship between Hadley and Walker cells in observations and climate model experiments, we demonstrate that the seasonally evolving warm pool SST anomalies in the decay phase of an El Niño event generate a meridionally asymmetric Walker circulation response, which couples the zonal and meridional atmospheric overturning circulations. This process, which can be characterized as a phase-synchronized spatial shift in Walker and Hadley cells, is accompanied by cross-equatorial northwesterly low-level flow that diverges from an area of anomalous drying in the western North Pacific and converges towards a region with anomalous moistening in the southern central Pacific. Our results show that the SST-induced concurrent spatial shifts of the two circulations are climatically relevant as they can further amplify extratropical precipitation variability on interannual timescales.

Kyung-Sook Yun et al.

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Short summary
Changes in the Hadley and Walker cells cause major climate disruptions across our planet. What has been overlooked so far is the question whether these two circulations can shift their positions in a synchronized manner. We here show the synchronized spatial shifts between Walker and Hadley cells and further highlights a novel aspect of how tropical sea surface temperature anomalies can couple these two circulations. The re-positioning has important implications for extratropical rainfall.
Changes in the Hadley and Walker cells cause major climate disruptions across our planet. What...
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