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Climate impacts of recent multidecadal changes in Atlantic Ocean Sea Surface Temperature: A multimodel comparison

Hodson, D. L. R. ORCID:, Sutton, R. T. ORCID:, Cassou, C., Keenlyside, N., Okumura, Y. and Zhou, T. (2010) Climate impacts of recent multidecadal changes in Atlantic Ocean Sea Surface Temperature: A multimodel comparison. Climate Dynamics, 34 (7-8). pp. 1041-1058. ISSN 0930-7575

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s00382-009-0571-2


During the twentieth century sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean exhibited prominent multidecadal variations. The source of such variations has yet to be rigorously established—but the question of their impact on climate can be investigated. Here we report on a set of multimodel experiments to examine the impact of patterns of warming in the North Atlantic, and cooling in the South Atlantic, derived from observations, that is characteristic of the positive phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). The experiments were carried out with six atmospheric General Circulation Models (including two versions of one model), and a major goal was to assess the extent to which key climate impacts are consistent between the different models. The major climate impacts are found over North and South America, with the strongest impacts over land found over the United States and northern parts of South America. These responses appear to be driven by a combination of an off-equatorial Gill response to diabatic heating over the Caribbean due to increased rainfall within the region and a Northward shift in the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) due to the anomalous cross-equatorial SST gradient. The majority of the models show warmer US land temperatures and reduced Mean Sea Level Pressure during summer (JJA) in response to a warmer North Atlantic and a cooler South Atlantic, in line with observations. However the majority of models show no significant impact on US rainfall during summer. Over northern South America, all models show reduced rainfall in southern hemisphere winter (JJA), whilst in Summer (DJF) there is a generally an increase in rainfall. However, there is a large spread amongst the models in the magnitude of the rainfall anomalies over land. Away from the Americas, there are no consistent significant modelled responses. In particular there are no significant changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) over the North Atlantic and Europe in Winter (DJF). Additionally, the observed Sahel drying signal in African rainfall is not seen in the modelled responses. Suggesting that, in contrast to some studies, the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation was not the primary driver of recent reductions in Sahel rainfall.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:4319

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