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Analysis of a regional change in the sign of the SAM–temperature relationship in Antarctica


This study examines regional atmospheric circulation changes associated with a reversal in the sign of the relationship between the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) and near-surface temperatures at Halley station, East Antarctica, during the 1980s. We show that the key factor affecting the regional SAM–temperature relationship (STR) is the relative magnitude of two climatological low pressure centres to the west and east of the area, which determines the source region of air masses advected into the locality. The principal difference affecting the STR is shown to be a trend towards a significantly weaker climatological low (higher pressure) at ~20°E during a positive phase of the SAM. Specifically, it is variations in the phase and magnitude of the wave number three patterns of atmospheric circulation, the non-annular component of the SAM, which are the principal factors governing the regional STR. A similar reversal is observed in the sign of the correlation between the SAM and oxygen-isotope values from an ice core located some 1,200 km east of Halley. This relationship is examined throughout the 20th Century, by comparing the isotope data to SAM reconstructions, and demonstrates marked decadal variability. Thus, these data suggest that switches in the STR are more likely to reflect natural variability in the long-wave patterns over the Southern Ocean rather than the influence of an anthropogenic forcing. This finding is important when considering the potential utility of Antarctic isotope data as a proxy for the SAM.

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We thank Dr. Julie Jones of the University of Sheffield and Dr. Ryan Fogt of Ohio University for supplying their annual SAM indices. In addition we thank the two anonymous referees for their constructive reviews that helped improve the paper.

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Correspondence to Gareth J. Marshall.

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Marshall, G.J., Di Battista, S., Naik, S.S. et al. Analysis of a regional change in the sign of the SAM–temperature relationship in Antarctica. Clim Dyn 36, 277–287 (2011).

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  • Antarctica
  • Temperature
  • Southern Annular Mode
  • Variability
  • Climate change
  • Atmospheric circulation