Climate Dynamics

, Volume 45, Issue 11–12, pp 2993–3017 | Cite as

Observed and simulated inter-decadal changes in the structure of Southern Hemisphere large-scale circulation

  • Ana C. V. Freitas
  • Jorgen S. Frederiksen
  • Jennifer Whelan
  • Terence J. O’Kane
  • Tércio Ambrizzi


Several studies have identified that, in the mid-1970s to early 1980s, a major shift occurred in the structure of the large-scale circulation in both hemispheres. This work employs the CSIRO Mk3L general circulation model in ensemble simulations with observed sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and historical time-evolving carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations to investigate the inter-decadal changes found observationally in the jet streams, temperature, Hadley circulation, mean sea level pressure and precipitation. First, the performance of the model in simulating these changes for the mean July climate fields of 1949–1968 and 1975–1994, in comparison with the corresponding observations (NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis I and the Twentieth Century Reanalysis V2), is investigated. We find that the model is quite skilful in reproducing the broad features of the important inter-decadal changes that occurred in the mid-1970s. The model simulations and the NCEP/NCAR and twentieth century reanalyses agree in the eastern hemisphere; whereas in the western hemisphere the reanalyses show differences, and the simulations combine aspects of these two datasets. The role of the direct radiative forcing due to CO2 in driving the inter-decadal changes is also examined. Results indicate that, in comparison with the indirect effect of CO2 carried by the changing SSTs, there is little additional impact of the direct radiative forcing due to CO2 on the changes in the latter period. However, our simulations with fixed CO2 concentration have shown clearly that the atmospheric simulations with historical time-evolving CO2 concentrations are more skilful in reproducing the inter-decadal changes. The sensitivity of the ensemble results to employing the same or different time evolving sea ice boundary conditions in the ensemble members is also studied. The contributions of internal and external variability are discussed.


Jet streams Hadley circulation Temperature Mean sea level pressure Precipitation 



A.C.V. Freitas acknowledges São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) for financial support (grant 2012/14231-1) and CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship for technical support. T.J. O’Kane is supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship. T. Ambrizzi had partial support from CNPq (Grant 300976/2010-0), FAPESP (Grant 2008/58101-9) and VALE Technology Association Institute (ITV-VALE). This work is partly supported by the Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. We are grateful to Steven Phipps for the assistance with the CSIRO Mk3L model. We thank the two reviewers whose insightful comments improved substantially an earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana C. V. Freitas
    • 1
  • Jorgen S. Frederiksen
    • 2
  • Jennifer Whelan
    • 2
  • Terence J. O’Kane
    • 3
  • Tércio Ambrizzi
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of Sao PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere FlagshipAspendaleAustralia
  3. 3.CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere FlagshipHobartAustralia

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