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Publication Date
15 August 2022

Seasonally and Regionally Dependent Shifts of the Atmospheric Westerly Jets under Global Warming



A distinct feature of the atmospheric circulation response to increasing greenhouse gas forcing is the poleward shift of the zonal-mean westerly jet. The dynamical mechanisms of the zonal-mean poleward jet shift have been extensively studied in literature. At seasonal/regional scales, however, the westerly jets can shift equatorward, such as in the early-summer Asia–Pacific region, the late-winter America–Atlantic region, and the winter/spring east Pacific. These equatorward jet shifts imply climate impacts distinct from those of the poleward shifts, yet their causes are not well understood. Here, based on a hierarchy of coupled, prescribed-SST, and aquaplanet simulations, we attribute the seasonal/regional equatorward jet shifts to the enhanced tropical upper-level warming (ETUW), which arises from both the tropical moist adiabat and the enhanced equatorial surface warming. By steepening the meridional temperature gradient in the subtropical upper-to-middle level and assisted by positive eddy feedback, the ETUW increases the zonal wind equatorward of the climatological jet. When the regional/seasonal meridional temperature gradients (or equivalently the westerly jets) are weak and peak close to the tropics, the ETUW effect overcomes the poleward jet-shift mechanisms and leads to the equatorward jet shifts. This climatological-state dependency is consistently seen in the decomposed jet responses to uniform warming and surface warming pattern, and further demonstrated through idealized aquaplanet experiments with designed climatological states. For uniform warming, the ETUW arising from moist adiabat makes the general poleward jet shifts insignificant in the aforementioned favorable regions/seasons. For warming pattern, the ETUW from enhanced equatorial warming drives substantial equatorward jet shifts in these favorable seasons/regions.

Zhou, Wenyu, L. Ruby Leung, and Jian Lu. 2022. “Seasonally And Regionally Dependent Shifts Of The Atmospheric Westerly Jets Under Global Warming”. Journal Of Climate 35 (16). American Meteorological Society: 5433-5447. doi:10.1175/jcli-d-21-0723.1.
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