What Controls Recent Changes in the Circulation of the Southern Hemisphere: Polar Stratospheric or Equatorial Surface Temperatures?


Recent research suggests that both tropical ocean warming and stratospheric temperature anomalies due to ozone depletion have led to a poleward displacement of the midand high-latitude circulation of the Southern Hemisphere over the past century. In this study, we attempt to distinguish the influences of ocean warming and stratospheric cooling trends on seasonal changes of both the zonally symmetric and asymmetric components of the southern hemisphere circulation. Our analysis makes use of three data sets-the ERA40 reanalysis and results from two different runs of the GFDL global atmosphere and land model (AM2.1) for the period 1870 to 2004. A regression analysis was applied to two variables in each of the three data sets-the zonal component of the surface wind U(10 m) and the height at 300 hPato determine their correlation with zonally averaged polar stratospheric temperatures (T_polarat 150 hPa, averaged over a band from 70S - 80S) and low-level equatorial temperatures (T_equatorat 850 hPa averaged over a band at 5S - 5N). Our analysis shows that the zonally symmetric surface winds have a considerably enhanced intensity in high latitudes of the southern hemisphere over the summer period, and that the stratospheric temperature trend, and thus ozone depletion, is the dominant contributor to that change. However, the climatic change of the asymmetric component of zonal wind component at z = 10 m (U10) as well as of 300hPa heights has been found to be large for both summer and winter periods. Our regression results show that correlation with T_equator (our proxy for global warming) explains most of the climatic changes for the asymmetric component of U10 and 300 hPa heights for summer and winter periods, suggesting the influence of warming of the global oceans on anticyclones south of the Indian Ocean and south-eastern Pacific Ocean.

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I. Orlanski, "What Controls Recent Changes in the Circulation of the Southern Hemisphere: Polar Stratospheric or Equatorial Surface Temperatures?," Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, Vol. 3 No. 4, 2013, pp. 497-509. doi: 10.4236/acs.2013.34052.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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