The robustness of the atmospheric circulation and precipitation response to future anthropogenic surface warming

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The impact of long-term sea surface temperature (SST) change on the atmospheric circulation is studied by comparing atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) simulations forced with a spatially uniform SST increase and a structured SST increase the structured SST increase is calculated from the response of an ensemble of coupled ocean-atmosphere models to increased CO 2. Most of the impact of SST pattern change is confined to equatorial Indo-Pacific. However, the circulation change under the two types of SST forcing is similar over the rest of the tropics and almost identical in the extratropics, indicating that the pattern of future SST change has overall little impact on the response of the atmospheric circulation and, in turn, on the resulting changes in precipitation the tropical similarity is argued to result from energetic constraints that weaken the atmospheric circulation, whereas the extratropical similarity likely results from the insensitivity of Rossby Wave generation to the changes in near-equatorial upper level divergence. A comparison of the AGCM simulations with those from externally forced coupled ocean-atmosphere models suggest that ocean coupling or the direct effect of radiative forcing has a larger impact on the projected changes in circulation and precipitation than the pattern of SST change over most regions. Key Points AGCM simulations forced with uniform and structured SST warming are compared The atmospheric circulation is insensitive to the pattern of SST warming Coupling and radiative forcing are more important than pattern of SST change

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2614-2622
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 16 2014


  • AGCM
  • SST pattern
  • air-sea interaction
  • atmospheric circulation
  • global warming
  • precipitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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