Superrotation and nonlinear hadley circulation response to zonally asymmetric sea surface temperature in an aquaplanet GCM

Masato Mori, Masahiro Watanabe, Masahide Kimoto

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4 Citations (Scopus)


The responses of the equatorial zonal wind and the Hadley circulation to the equatorial zonal wavenumber one sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly, Ts*, are examined in an atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) with an aquaplanet condition. The Hadley cell is weakened as the magnitude of Ts* increases, balancing with a decrease in the zonal-mean diabatic heating over the tropics. The decrease of heating reflects a nonlinear relationship between precipitation and SST; deep convection, such as a super cloud cluster, is significantly suppressed over cold Ts*, whereas is slightly enhanced over warm Ts*. The effective suppression of deep convection is accomplished by the stable boundary layer and the dry subsidence anomaly associated with the Walker cell which is excited by the SST anomaly. And the decreased convection acts to further reinforce the subsidence via thermodynamic balance. Therefore, this positive feedback between large-scale circulation and deep convection determines the nonlinear relationship and controls the strength of the Hadley cell. In terms of the energetics of the tropical circulation, the Hadley cell has to be weakened to compensate for the lack of energy supply caused by an increase of tropical radiative cooling due to the effective suppression of deep convection over cold Ts*. We compared the results of our AGCM with that of other 15 aquaplanet AGCMs integrated with the same SST distribution. While the Hadley cell is weakened in all AGCMs when Ts* is added to the zonal uniform SST, there is a large diversity in the strength. This suggests that the difference in the physical parameterization causes a different sensitivity of the Hadley cell response to zonally asymmetric SST. The magnitude of weakening is approximately proportional to the decreased (increased) amount of the deep convective precipitation (the radiative cooling) over the tropics. This strong relationship suggests that the positive feedback also works in other AGCMs. It is considered that the feedback is also important for understanding the formation of a real tropical climate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-291
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of the Meteorological Society of Japan
Issue number1 A
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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