The influence of cloud feedbacks on equatorial atlantic variability

Katinka Bellomo, Amy C. Clement, Thorsten Mauritsen, Gaby Rädel, Bjorn Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Observations show that cloud feedback over the Namibian stratocumulus region is positive because cloud cover is anticorrelated with local sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies. Moreover, regressions of observed atmospheric fields on equatorial Atlantic SST anomalies indicate that cloud feedbacks over the Namibian stratocumulus region covary with Atlantic Niño. However, from observations alone, it is not possible to quantify the influence of regional cloud feedbacks on equatorial climate variability. To address this question, a set of sensitivity experiments are conducted using an atmospheric general circulation model (ECHAM6) coupled to a slab ocean in which the strength of positive cloud feedback is enhanced over several regions in the South Atlantic basin. Enhanced positive cloud feedback over the Namibian stratocumulus region increases local as well as equatorial SST variability, whereas enhanced cloud feedback over other regions in the South Atlantic increases local SST variability but exhibits negligible responses at the equator. The authors' results indicate that the Namibian region plays a central role in enhancing equatorial SST variability because it is located where the SST anomalies associated with the simulated Atlantic Niño in the slab-ocean model develop. These results highlight the important role of the regional coupling of cloud cover over the Namibian region with local SSTs and its effects on equatorial Atlantic climate variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2725-2744
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2015


  • Cloud forcing
  • Clouds
  • Feedback
  • Fluxes
  • Interannual variability
  • Multidecadal variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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