A Rossby wave bridge from the tropical Atlantic to West Antarctica

Xichen Li, Edwin P. Gerber, David M. Holland, Changhyun Yoo

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72 Scopus citations


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. Themechanisminvolves both changes in the excitation ofRossby wave activitywith season and the formation of aRossbywaveguide 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2256-2273
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Meteorological Society.


  • Annular mode
  • Atmosphere-ocean interaction
  • Multidecadal variability
  • Rossby waves
  • Teleconnections
  • Trends


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