EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Revisiting the relationship between dynamical sensitivity and climate sensitivity in the Southern hemisphere

Thomas Wood1, Amanda Maycock1, Christine McKenna1, Andreas Chrysanthou1, John Fyfe2, and Francois Engelbrecht3
Thomas Wood et al.
  • 1University of Leeds, Institute of Climate and Atmospheric Science, School of Earth and Evironment, Leeds, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (
  • 2Environment Canada, Canadian Centre for Climate Modeling and Analysis, Victoria, BC, Canada
  • 3University of Witwatersrand, Global Change Institute, Pretoria, South Africa

The Southern Annular Mode (SAM) is the dominant mode of midlatitude atmospheric circulation variability in the Southern hemisphere. In the future, the SAM trend is expected to be the net result of opposing effects from increasing greenhouse gases (GHG) and ozone recovery. Different greenhouse gas scenarios, which induce different rates of surface and atmospheric temperature change, are therefore associated with different future SAM trends (Barnes et al., 2014). Since the magnitude of warming due to GHGs is an important component of this response, one might expect to find a relationship between equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) and future Southern hemisphere circulation trends. In CMIP5, the relationship between the SAM and the level of tropospheric warming across models was found to be strongest in the summer and autumn and could explain around 20% of the intermodel spread (Grise and Polvani, 2014). The spread is more strongly correlated with differences in meridional temperature gradients (Harvey et al., 2014).

Many of the latest CMIP6 models show a larger equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) of up to ~5.5 K (Forster et al., 2019) compared to a maximum of ~4.7 K in CMIP5. This raises the important question of how a higher level of warming affects projections of the SH midlatitude circulation. In this study, we examine the response of the SAM in CMIP6 models and quantify its relationship to ECS and temperature gradients. Our starting hypothesis is that stronger surface warming will induce a larger increase in tropical free tropospheric temperatures, and hence all being equal, a larger tropics-to-pole temperature gradient and a more positive SAM trend. However, results show that despite the higher level of warming in the CMIP6 models, there is a smaller positive trend in SAM index than in CMIP5 indicating a different relationship between warming and midlatitude circulation trends in CMIP6. We attempt to explain potential reasons for these differences.


Barnes, E.A., N.W. Barnes, and L.M. Polvani, 2014: Delayed Southern Hemisphere Climate Change Induced by Stratospheric Ozone Recovery, as Projected by the CMIP5 Models. J. Climate, 27, 852–867,

Forster, P.M., Maycock, A.C., McKenna, C.M. et al. (2019), Latest climate models confirm need for urgent mitigation. Nat. Clim. Chang. (2019) doi:10.1038/s41558-019-0660-0

Grise, K. M., and Polvani, L. M. (2014), Is climate sensitivity related to dynamical sensitivity? A Southern Hemisphere perspective, Geophys. Res. Lett., 41, 534– 540, doi:10.1002/2013GL058466.

Harvey, B.J., Shaffrey, L.C. & Woollings, T.J. (2014) Equator­-to-­pole temperature differences and the extra­tropical storm track responses of the CMIP5 climate models, Clim Dyn, 43: 1171.

How to cite: Wood, T., Maycock, A., McKenna, C., Chrysanthou, A., Fyfe, J., and Engelbrecht, F.: Revisiting the relationship between dynamical sensitivity and climate sensitivity in the Southern hemisphere, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-16108,, 2020

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