Research ArticleCLIMATOLOGY

The internal origin of the west-east asymmetry of Antarctic climate change

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Science Advances  12 Jun 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 24, eaaz1490
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz1490


Recent Antarctic surface climate change has been characterized by greater warming trends in West Antarctica than in East Antarctica. Although this asymmetric feature is well recognized, its origin remains poorly understood. Here, by analyzing observation data and multimodel results, we show that a west-east asymmetric internal mode amplified in austral winter originates from the harmony of the atmosphere-ocean coupled feedback off West Antarctica and the Antarctic terrain. The warmer ocean temperature over the West Antarctic sector has positive feedback, with an anomalous upper-tropospheric anticyclonic circulation response centered over West Antarctica, in which the strength of the feedback is controlled by the Antarctic topographic layout and the annual cycle. The current west-east asymmetry of Antarctic surface climate change is undoubtedly of natural origin because no external factors (e.g., orbital or anthropogenic factors) contribute to the asymmetric mode.

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