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Contrasting Responses of the Hadley Circulation to Equatorially Asymmetric and Symmetric Meridional Sea Surface Temperature Structures

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  • 1 College of Global Change and Earth System Science, Beijing Normal University, and Joint Center for Global Change Studies, Beijing, China
  • | 2 School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawaii
  • | 3 Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, and Laboratory for Climate and Ocean–Atmosphere Studies, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, School of Physics, Peking University, Beijing, China
  • | 4 Beijing Meteorological Service, Beijing, China
  • | 5 School of Atmospheric Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China
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Abstract

The impacts of different meridional structures of tropical sea surface temperature (SST) on the Hadley circulation (HC) in the annual mean are investigated during the period 1948–2013. By decomposing the variations in SST and the HC into two components—that is, the equatorially asymmetric (SEA for SST, and HEA for HC) and the equatorially symmetric (SES for SST, and HES for HC) parts—it is shown that the long-term variability in SEA and SES captures well the temporal variations in equatorially asymmetric and symmetric variations in SST. The variation in HEA is closely linked to that of SEA, and the variation in HES is connected with that of SES. However, the response of HEA to a given amplitude variation in SEA is stronger (by ~5 times) than that of HES to the same amplitude variation in SES. This point is further verified by theoretical and numerical models, indicating that the meridional structure of SST plays a crucial role in determining the anomalies in HC. This result may explain why the principal mode of HC is dominated by an equatorially asymmetric mode in its long-term variability.

Denotes Open Access content.

Corresponding author address: Prof. Jianping Li, College of Global Change and Earth System Science, Beijing Normal University, 19 XinJieKouWai St., HaiDian District, Beijing 100875, China. E-mail: ljp@bnu.edu.cn

Abstract

The impacts of different meridional structures of tropical sea surface temperature (SST) on the Hadley circulation (HC) in the annual mean are investigated during the period 1948–2013. By decomposing the variations in SST and the HC into two components—that is, the equatorially asymmetric (SEA for SST, and HEA for HC) and the equatorially symmetric (SES for SST, and HES for HC) parts—it is shown that the long-term variability in SEA and SES captures well the temporal variations in equatorially asymmetric and symmetric variations in SST. The variation in HEA is closely linked to that of SEA, and the variation in HES is connected with that of SES. However, the response of HEA to a given amplitude variation in SEA is stronger (by ~5 times) than that of HES to the same amplitude variation in SES. This point is further verified by theoretical and numerical models, indicating that the meridional structure of SST plays a crucial role in determining the anomalies in HC. This result may explain why the principal mode of HC is dominated by an equatorially asymmetric mode in its long-term variability.

Denotes Open Access content.

Corresponding author address: Prof. Jianping Li, College of Global Change and Earth System Science, Beijing Normal University, 19 XinJieKouWai St., HaiDian District, Beijing 100875, China. E-mail: ljp@bnu.edu.cn
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