Recent intensification of wind-driven circulation in the Pacific and the ongoing warming hiatus

Matthew Heathcote England, Shayne McGregor, J Paul Spence, Gerald A Meehl, Axel Timmermann, Wenju Cai, Alexander Sen Gupta, Michael James McPhaden, Ariaan Purich, Agus Santoso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

671 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Despite ongoing increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases, the Earth s global average surface air temperature has remained more or less steady since 2001. A variety of mechanisms have been proposed to account for this slowdown in surface warming. A key component of the global hiatus that has been identified is cool eastern Pacific sea surface temperature, but it is unclear how the ocean has remained relatively cool there in spite of ongoing increases in radiative forcing. Here we show that a pronounced strengthening in Pacific trade winds over the past two decades unprecedented in observations/reanalysis data and not captured by climate models is sufficient to account for the cooling of the tropical Pacific and a substantial slowdown in surface warming through increased subsurface ocean heat uptake. The extra uptake has come about through increased subduction in the Pacific shallow overturning cells, enhancing heat convergence in the equatorial thermocline. At the same time, the accelerated trade winds have increased equatorial upwelling in the central and eastern Pacific, lowering sea surface temperature there, which drives further cooling in other regions. The net effect of these anomalous winds is a cooling in the 2012 global average surface air temperature of 0.10.2C, which can account for much of the hiatus in surface warming observed since 2001. This hiatus could persist for much of the present decade if the trade wind trends continue, however rapid warming is expected to resume once the anomalous wind trends abate. (c) 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222 - 227
Number of pages6
JournalNature Climate Change
Volume4
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • decadal variation
  • decadal climate
  • climate prediction

Cite this

England, M. H., McGregor, S., Spence, J. P., Meehl, G. A., Timmermann, A., Cai, W., ... Santoso, A. (2014). Recent intensification of wind-driven circulation in the Pacific and the ongoing warming hiatus. Nature Climate Change, 4(3), 222 - 227. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2106
England, Matthew Heathcote ; McGregor, Shayne ; Spence, J Paul ; Meehl, Gerald A ; Timmermann, Axel ; Cai, Wenju ; Sen Gupta, Alexander ; McPhaden, Michael James ; Purich, Ariaan ; Santoso, Agus. / Recent intensification of wind-driven circulation in the Pacific and the ongoing warming hiatus. In: Nature Climate Change. 2014 ; Vol. 4, No. 3. pp. 222 - 227.
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abstract = "Despite ongoing increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases, the Earth s global average surface air temperature has remained more or less steady since 2001. A variety of mechanisms have been proposed to account for this slowdown in surface warming. A key component of the global hiatus that has been identified is cool eastern Pacific sea surface temperature, but it is unclear how the ocean has remained relatively cool there in spite of ongoing increases in radiative forcing. Here we show that a pronounced strengthening in Pacific trade winds over the past two decades unprecedented in observations/reanalysis data and not captured by climate models is sufficient to account for the cooling of the tropical Pacific and a substantial slowdown in surface warming through increased subsurface ocean heat uptake. The extra uptake has come about through increased subduction in the Pacific shallow overturning cells, enhancing heat convergence in the equatorial thermocline. At the same time, the accelerated trade winds have increased equatorial upwelling in the central and eastern Pacific, lowering sea surface temperature there, which drives further cooling in other regions. The net effect of these anomalous winds is a cooling in the 2012 global average surface air temperature of 0.10.2C, which can account for much of the hiatus in surface warming observed since 2001. This hiatus could persist for much of the present decade if the trade wind trends continue, however rapid warming is expected to resume once the anomalous wind trends abate. (c) 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited.",
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England, MH, McGregor, S, Spence, JP, Meehl, GA, Timmermann, A, Cai, W, Sen Gupta, A, McPhaden, MJ, Purich, A & Santoso, A 2014, 'Recent intensification of wind-driven circulation in the Pacific and the ongoing warming hiatus', Nature Climate Change, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 222 - 227. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2106

Recent intensification of wind-driven circulation in the Pacific and the ongoing warming hiatus. / England, Matthew Heathcote; McGregor, Shayne; Spence, J Paul; Meehl, Gerald A; Timmermann, Axel; Cai, Wenju; Sen Gupta, Alexander; McPhaden, Michael James; Purich, Ariaan; Santoso, Agus.

In: Nature Climate Change, Vol. 4, No. 3, 2014, p. 222 - 227.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Recent intensification of wind-driven circulation in the Pacific and the ongoing warming hiatus

AU - England, Matthew Heathcote

AU - McGregor, Shayne

AU - Spence, J Paul

AU - Meehl, Gerald A

AU - Timmermann, Axel

AU - Cai, Wenju

AU - Sen Gupta, Alexander

AU - McPhaden, Michael James

AU - Purich, Ariaan

AU - Santoso, Agus

PY - 2014

Y1 - 2014

N2 - Despite ongoing increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases, the Earth s global average surface air temperature has remained more or less steady since 2001. A variety of mechanisms have been proposed to account for this slowdown in surface warming. A key component of the global hiatus that has been identified is cool eastern Pacific sea surface temperature, but it is unclear how the ocean has remained relatively cool there in spite of ongoing increases in radiative forcing. Here we show that a pronounced strengthening in Pacific trade winds over the past two decades unprecedented in observations/reanalysis data and not captured by climate models is sufficient to account for the cooling of the tropical Pacific and a substantial slowdown in surface warming through increased subsurface ocean heat uptake. The extra uptake has come about through increased subduction in the Pacific shallow overturning cells, enhancing heat convergence in the equatorial thermocline. At the same time, the accelerated trade winds have increased equatorial upwelling in the central and eastern Pacific, lowering sea surface temperature there, which drives further cooling in other regions. The net effect of these anomalous winds is a cooling in the 2012 global average surface air temperature of 0.10.2C, which can account for much of the hiatus in surface warming observed since 2001. This hiatus could persist for much of the present decade if the trade wind trends continue, however rapid warming is expected to resume once the anomalous wind trends abate. (c) 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited.

AB - Despite ongoing increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases, the Earth s global average surface air temperature has remained more or less steady since 2001. A variety of mechanisms have been proposed to account for this slowdown in surface warming. A key component of the global hiatus that has been identified is cool eastern Pacific sea surface temperature, but it is unclear how the ocean has remained relatively cool there in spite of ongoing increases in radiative forcing. Here we show that a pronounced strengthening in Pacific trade winds over the past two decades unprecedented in observations/reanalysis data and not captured by climate models is sufficient to account for the cooling of the tropical Pacific and a substantial slowdown in surface warming through increased subsurface ocean heat uptake. The extra uptake has come about through increased subduction in the Pacific shallow overturning cells, enhancing heat convergence in the equatorial thermocline. At the same time, the accelerated trade winds have increased equatorial upwelling in the central and eastern Pacific, lowering sea surface temperature there, which drives further cooling in other regions. The net effect of these anomalous winds is a cooling in the 2012 global average surface air temperature of 0.10.2C, which can account for much of the hiatus in surface warming observed since 2001. This hiatus could persist for much of the present decade if the trade wind trends continue, however rapid warming is expected to resume once the anomalous wind trends abate. (c) 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited.

KW - decadal variation

KW - decadal climate

KW - climate prediction

U2 - 10.1038/nclimate2106

DO - 10.1038/nclimate2106

M3 - Article

VL - 4

SP - 222

EP - 227

JO - Nature Climate Change

JF - Nature Climate Change

SN - 1758-678X

IS - 3

ER -