A decadal solar effect in the tropics in July-August

Harry van Loon, Gerald A. Meehl, Julie M. Arblaster

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The availability of global gridded precipitation and outgoing long-wave radiation (OLR) data after 1978 makes possible an investigation of the influence of the decadal solar oscillation in the tropics during three solar maxima and two solar minima. The NCEP/NCAR reanalyses starting in the 1950s allows the inclusion of an additional two solar maxima and minima to look for consistency of response across a longer time period. In the northern summer (July-August), the major climatological tropical precipitation maxima are intensified in solar maxima compared to solar minima during the period 1979-2002. The regions of this enhanced climatological precipitation extend from the Indian monsoon to the West Pacific oceanic warm pool and farther eastwards in the Intertropical Convergence Zone of the North Pacific and North American Monsoon, to the tropical Atlantic and greater rainfall over the Sahel and central Africa. The differences between solar maxima and minima in the zonal mean temperature through the depth of the troposphere, OLR, tropospheric vertical motion, and tropopause temperature are consistent with the differences in the rainfall. The upward vertical motion is stronger in regions of enhanced tropical precipitation, tropospheric temperatures are higher, tropopause temperatures are lower, and the OLR is reduced due to higher, colder cloud tops over the areas of deeper convective rainfall in the solar maxima than in the minima. These differences between the extremes of the solar cycle suggest that an increase in solar forcing intensifies the Hadley and Walker circulations, with greater solar forcing resulting in strengthened regional climatological tropical precipitation regimes. These effects are as strong or even more pronounced when warm and cold extremes in the Southern Oscillation are removed from the analyses. Additionally, lower stratospheric temperatures and geopotential heights are higher with greater solar forcing suggesting ozone interactions with solar forcing in the upper stratosphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1767-1778
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Solar cycle
  • Solar response
  • Stratosphere
  • Tropical precipitation

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