Global Warming Attenuates the Tropical Atlantic-Pacific Teleconnection

Sci Rep. 2016 Feb 3;6:20078. doi: 10.1038/srep20078.


Changes in global sea surface temperature (SST) since the end of last century display a pattern of widespread warming intercepted by cooling in the eastern equatorial Pacific and western coasts of the American continent. Studies have suggested that the cooling in the eastern equatorial Pacific may be partly induced by warming in the North Atlantic. However, it remains unknown how stable this inter-tropical teleconnection will be under global warming. Here we show that the inter-tropical teleconnection from the tropical Atlantic to Pacific weakens substantially as the CO2 concentration increases. This reduced impact is related to the El Niño-like warming of the tropical Pacific mean state, which leads to limited seasonal migration of the Pacific inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) and weakened ocean heat transport. A fast decay of the tropical Atlantic SST anomalies in a warmer climate also contributes to the weakened teleconnection. Our study suggests that as greenhouse warming continues, the trend in the tropical Pacific as well as the development of ENSO will be less frequently interrupted by the Atlantic because of this attenuation. The weakened teleconnection is also supported by CMIP5 models, although only a few of these models can capture this inter-tropical teleconnection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't