Abstract

In a warming world context, Sea Surface Temperature (SST) off central-south Peru, northern Chile and further offshore increases at a slower rate than the global average since several decades, i.e. cools, relative to the global average. This tendency is synchronous with an Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) negative trend since ∼1980, which has a cooling signature in the southeastern Pacific. Here, we use a large ensemble of historical coupled model simulations to investigate the relative roles of internal variability (and in particular the IPO) and external forcing in driving this relative regional cooling, and the associated mechanisms. The ensemble-mean reproduces the relative cooling, in response to an externally-forced southerly wind anomaly, which strengthens the upwelling off Chile in recent decades. This southerly wind anomaly results from the poleward expansion of the Southern Hemisphere Hadley Cell. Attribution experiments reveal that this poleward expansion and the resulting enhanced upwelling mostly occur in response to increasing greenhouse gases and stratospheric ozone depletion since ∼1980. An oceanic heat budget confirms that the wind-forced upwelling enhancement dominates the relative cooling near the coast. In contrast, a wind-forced deepening of the mixed layer drives the offshore cooling. While internal variability contributes to the spread of tendencies, the ensemble-mean relative cooling in the southeastern Pacific is consistent with observations and occurs irrespectively of the IPO phase, hence indicating the preeminent role of external forcing.

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