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The Observed Relationship between Pacific SST Variability and Hadley Cell Extent Trends in Reanalyses

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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Abstract

Reanalysis and other observationally based estimates suggest that the tropics have expanded more than simulated by coupled climate models with historical radiative forcing. Previous research has attempted to reconcile this discrepancy by using climate model simulations with constrained tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs) to account for the role of internal variability. Here the relationships between Hadley cell extent and internal SST variability and long-term warming are analyzed using purely observational techniques. Using linearly independent components of SST variability with reanalysis datasets, the statistical relationship between Pacific variability and Hadley cell extent is quantified by time scale. There is a strong correlation between North Pacific decadal SST variability and Southern Hemisphere Hadley cell extent. Conversely, there is a weaker observed relation between El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Hadley cell extent when low-frequency variability is filtered out of the ENSO signal. The observed linear sensitivity of Hadley cell width to long-term warming agrees with coupled general circulation model experiments when accounting for uncertainties, and there is a statistically significant relationship between Northern Hemisphere Hadley cell extent and long-term warming during boreal autumn.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-20-0410.s1.

© 2021 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: Michael Rollings, michael.rollings@mcgill.ca

Abstract

Reanalysis and other observationally based estimates suggest that the tropics have expanded more than simulated by coupled climate models with historical radiative forcing. Previous research has attempted to reconcile this discrepancy by using climate model simulations with constrained tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs) to account for the role of internal variability. Here the relationships between Hadley cell extent and internal SST variability and long-term warming are analyzed using purely observational techniques. Using linearly independent components of SST variability with reanalysis datasets, the statistical relationship between Pacific variability and Hadley cell extent is quantified by time scale. There is a strong correlation between North Pacific decadal SST variability and Southern Hemisphere Hadley cell extent. Conversely, there is a weaker observed relation between El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Hadley cell extent when low-frequency variability is filtered out of the ENSO signal. The observed linear sensitivity of Hadley cell width to long-term warming agrees with coupled general circulation model experiments when accounting for uncertainties, and there is a statistically significant relationship between Northern Hemisphere Hadley cell extent and long-term warming during boreal autumn.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-20-0410.s1.

© 2021 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: Michael Rollings, michael.rollings@mcgill.ca

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