reference : More extreme swings of the South Pacific convergence zone due to greenhouse warming

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Bibliographic fields
reftype Journal Article
Abstract The South Pacific convergence zone (SPCZ) is the Southern Hemisphere/'s most expansive and persistent rain band, extending from the equatorial western Pacific Ocean southeastward towards French Polynesia. Owing to its strong rainfall gradient, a small displacement in the position of the SPCZ causes drastic changes to hydroclimatic conditions and the frequency of extreme weather events—such as droughts, floods and tropical cyclones—experienced by vulnerable island countries in the region. The SPCZ position varies from its climatological mean location with the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), moving a few degrees northward during moderate El Nino events and southward during La Nina events. During strong El Nino events, however, the SPCZ undergoes an extreme swing—by up to ten degrees of latitude toward the Equator—and collapses to a more zonally oriented structure with commensurately severe weather impacts. Understanding changes in the characteristics of the SPCZ in a changing climate is therefore of broad scientific and socioeconomic interest. Here we present climate modelling evidence for a near doubling in the occurrences of zonal SPCZ events between the periods 1891-1990 and 1991-2090 in response to greenhouse warming, even in the absence of a consensus on how ENSO will change. We estimate the increase in zonal SPCZ events from an aggregation of the climate models in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phases 3 and 5 (CMIP3 and CMIP5) multi-model database that are able to simulate such events. The change is caused by a projected enhanced equatorial warming in the Pacific and may lead to more frequent occurrences of extreme events across the Pacific island nations most affected by zonal SPCZ events.
Author Cai, Wenju; Lengaigne, Matthieu; Borlace, Simon; Collins, Matthew; Cowan, Tim; McPhaden, Michael J.; Timmermann, Axel; Power, Scott; Brown, Josephine; Menkes, Christophe; Ngari, Arona; Vincent, Emmanuel M.; Widlansky, Matthew J.
DOI 10.1038/nature11358
Database Provider
Date 2012/08/16/
ISSN 0028-0836
Issue 7411
Journal Nature
Keywords drought; flood; extreme events; ENSO; Rainfall; climate projections; Climate science; Earth sciences; South Pacific Convergence Zone; American Samoa; Environmental science
Language en
Pages 365-369
Title More extreme swings of the South Pacific convergence zone due to greenhouse warming
Volume 488
Year 2012
Bibliographic identifiers
_record_number 22401
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