, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 483-492

Sensitivity of global warming to the pattern of tropical ocean warming

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Abstract

The current generations of climate models are in substantial disagreement as to the projected patterns of sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Tropics over the next several decades. We show that the spatial patterns of tropical ocean temperature trends have a strong influence on global mean temperature and precipitation and on global mean radiative forcing. We identify the SST patterns with the greatest influence on the global mean climate and find very different, and often opposing, sensitivities to SST changes in the tropical Indian and West Pacific Oceans. Our work stresses the need to reduce climate model biases in these sensitive regions, as they not only affect the regional climates of the nearby densely populated continents, but also have a disproportionately large effect on the global climate.