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The Response of Hadley Circulation Extent to an Idealized Representation of Poleward Ocean Heat Transport in an Aquaplanet GCM

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
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Abstract

Deeper theoretical understanding of Hadley circulation (HC) width and the mechanisms leading to HC expansion is gained by exploring the response of a zonally symmetric slab ocean aquaplanet general circulation model (GCM) to imposed poleward ocean heat transport (OHT). Poleward OHT causes the subtropical edge of the HC to shift poleward by up to 3° compared to its position in simulations without OHT. This HC widening is interpreted as being driven by a decrease in baroclinicity near the poleward edge of the HC and is divided into three components: a decrease in baroclinicity due to 1) a systematic poleward shift of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) during the seasonal cycle that drives a decrease in the angular momentum of the HC and, consequently, a weakening of the vertical shear of the zonal wind; 2) an increase in subtropical static stability and the vertical extent of the HC, both of which result from OHT’s effect on global-mean temperature; and 3) a relaxation of the meridional sea surface temperature (SST) gradient in the outer tropics and subtropics by OHT. Although the third mechanism contributes the most to the response of HC width to OHT, the contributions from the first two mechanisms each account for up to 20%–30% of the HC response. This work highlights the role of ITCZ position in producing HC expansion and in setting the climatological width of the HC, a role which has been underappreciated. This study indicates a fundamental role for baroclinicity in limiting the poleward extent of the HC.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0324.s1.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Casey C. Hilgenbrink, chilge@uw.edu

Abstract

Deeper theoretical understanding of Hadley circulation (HC) width and the mechanisms leading to HC expansion is gained by exploring the response of a zonally symmetric slab ocean aquaplanet general circulation model (GCM) to imposed poleward ocean heat transport (OHT). Poleward OHT causes the subtropical edge of the HC to shift poleward by up to 3° compared to its position in simulations without OHT. This HC widening is interpreted as being driven by a decrease in baroclinicity near the poleward edge of the HC and is divided into three components: a decrease in baroclinicity due to 1) a systematic poleward shift of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) during the seasonal cycle that drives a decrease in the angular momentum of the HC and, consequently, a weakening of the vertical shear of the zonal wind; 2) an increase in subtropical static stability and the vertical extent of the HC, both of which result from OHT’s effect on global-mean temperature; and 3) a relaxation of the meridional sea surface temperature (SST) gradient in the outer tropics and subtropics by OHT. Although the third mechanism contributes the most to the response of HC width to OHT, the contributions from the first two mechanisms each account for up to 20%–30% of the HC response. This work highlights the role of ITCZ position in producing HC expansion and in setting the climatological width of the HC, a role which has been underappreciated. This study indicates a fundamental role for baroclinicity in limiting the poleward extent of the HC.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0324.s1.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Casey C. Hilgenbrink, chilge@uw.edu

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