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Antiphase change in Walker Circulation between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean during the Last Interglacial induced by interbasin sea surface temperature anomaly contrast

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Understanding the variations of the Walker Circulations during the Last Interglacial (LIG, ~ 130–115 ka BP) may advance our knowledge of climate change in an orbitally induced warmer world. Here we investigate the variations and the underpinning mechanisms of the Pacific Walker Circulation (PWC) and the Indian Ocean Walker Circulation (IWC) during the LIG, using the lig127k experiments from the Paleoclimate Modeling Intercomparison Project Phase 4. Compared to the preindustrial, annual PWC is broadened by 3° and strengthened by 3.5% during the LIG, whereas annual IWC is narrowed by 3° and weakened by 17.2%. The antiphase change between annual PWC and IWC during the LIG is dominated by the change in boreal warm seasons (June–October), which is in turn closely tied to the changes in sea surface temperatures between the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific Ocean. Specifically, the models predict a general warming over the tropical Indian Ocean but cooling over the tropical western Pacific in boreal warm seasons during the LIG. This interbasin contrast results in enhanced sea-level pressure over the tropical western Pacific and decreased sea-level pressure over the tropical Indian Ocean, together with opposite changes in precipitation. The west-to-east sea-level pressure gradient contributes to anomalous low-level easterlies in the deep tropics. These changes result in an enhancement and broadening of the PWC, whereas a reverse change for the IWC. The proposed dominating role of interbasin contrast in temperature anomaly is further confirmed by a linear baroclinic model and an atmospheric general circulation model.

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The PMIP4 outputs are available at The NCEP/DOE reanalysis II dataset is available at


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We thank the Editor and the two anonymous reviewers for their extremely helpful comments, which greatly helped to improve the quality of the original manuscript. We thank PMIP4 modeling groups for available model outputs and Physical Sciences Laboratory for providing NCEP/DOE reanalysis II dataset.


This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (42221004, 41888101, 42022036) and the Youth Innovation Promotion Association by CAS (2019080).

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JM, QY, NJ, and HW contributed to conceptualize the study, analyze the data, and write the paper. All authors discussed the results and reviewed the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Qing Yan.

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Ma, J., Yan, Q., Jiang, N. et al. Antiphase change in Walker Circulation between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean during the Last Interglacial induced by interbasin sea surface temperature anomaly contrast. Clim Dyn 62, 2565–2579 (2024).

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