Climate Dynamics

, Volume 42, Issue 7–8, pp 2033–2043 | Cite as

Contrasting the tropical responses to zonally asymmetric extratropical and tropical thermal forcing

Original Article


The mechanism is investigated by which extratropical thermal forcing with a finite zonal extent produces global impact. The goal is to understand the near-global response to a weakened Atlantic meridional overturning circulation suggested by paleoclimate data and modeling studies. An atmospheric model coupled to an aquaplanet slab mixed layer ocean, in which the unperturbed climate is zonally symmetric, is perturbed by prescribing cooling of the mixed layer in the Northern Hemisphere and heating of equal magnitude in the Southern Hemisphere, over some finite range of longitudes. In the case of heating/cooling confined to the extratropics, the zonally asymmetric forcing is homogenized by midlatitude westerlies and extratropical eddies before passing on to the tropics, inducing a zonally symmetric tropical response. In addition, the zonal mean responses vary little as the zonal extent of the forced region is changed, holding the zonal mean heating fixed, implying little impact of stationary eddies on the zonal mean. In contrast, when the heating/cooling is confined to the tropics, the zonally asymmetric forcing produces a highly localized response with slight westward extension, due to advection by mean easterly trade winds. Regardless of the forcing location, neither the spatial structure nor the zonal mean responses are strongly affected by wind–evaporation–sea surface temperature feedback.


AMOC Zonal homogenization Zonal advection 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah M. Kang
    • 1
  • Isaac M. Held
    • 2
  • Shang-Ping Xie
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Urban and Environmental EngineeringUlsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST)UlsanRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics LaboratoryPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  3. 3.Scripps Institution of OceanographyUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA

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