A Rossby Wave Bridge from the Tropical Atlantic to West Antarctica

Published in J. Climate, 2015

Li, X., E. P. Gerber, D. H. Holland, and C. Yoo, 2015: A Rossby Wave Bridge from the Tropical Atlantic to West Antarctica. J. Climate, 28, 2256–2273, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00450.1.

Official version

Tropical Atlantic sea surface temperature changes have recently been linked to circulation anomalies around Antarctica during austral winter. Warming in the tropical Atlantic associated with the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation forces a positive response in the southern annular mode, strengthening the Amundsen–Bellingshausen Sea low in particular. In this study, observational and reanalysis datasets and a hierarchy of atmospheric models are used to assess the seasonality and dynamical mechanism of this teleconnection. Both the reanalyses and models reveal a robust link between tropical Atlantic SSTs and the Amundsen–Bellingshausen Sea low in all seasons except austral summer. A Rossby wave mechanism is then shown to both explain the teleconnection and its seasonality. The mechanism involves both changes in the excitation of Rossby wave activity with season and the formation of a Rossby waveguide across the Pacific, which depends critically on the strength and extension of the subtropical jet over the west Pacific. Strong anticyclonic curvature on the poleward flank of the jet creates a reflecting surface, channeling quasi-stationary Rossby waves from the subtropical Atlantic to the Amundsen–Bellingshausen Sea region. In summer, however, the jet is weaker than in other seasons and no longer able to keep Rossby wave activity trapped in the Southern Hemisphere. The mechanism is supported by integrations with a comprehensive atmospheric model, initial-value calculations with a primitive equation model on the sphere, and Rossby wave ray tracing analysis.