Synchronized spatial shifts of Hadley and Walker circulations

Yun, Kyung-Sook; Timmermann, Axel; Stuecker, Malte F.

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 spatiotemporal relationship between Hadley and Walker cells in observations and climate model experiments, we demonstrate that the seasonally evolving warm-pool sea surface temperature (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.



Yun, Kyung-Sook / Timmermann, Axel / Stuecker, Malte F.: Synchronized spatial shifts of Hadley and Walker circulations. 2021. Copernicus Publications.


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Rechteinhaber: Kyung-Sook Yun et al.

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