Li, S., M. P. Hoerling, S. Peng, and K. M. Weickmann, 2006: The Annular Response to Tropical Pacific SST Forcing. J. Climate, 19, 18021819, doi: 10.1175/JCLI3668.1.


The leading pattern of Northern Hemisphere winter height variability exhibits an annular structure, one related to tropical west Pacific heating. To explore whether this pattern can be excited by tropical Pacific SST variations, an atmospheric general circulation model coupled to a slab mixed layer ocean is employed. Ensemble experiments with an idealized SST anomaly centered at different longitudes on the equator are conducted. The results reveal two different response patterns--a hemispheric pattern projecting on the annular mode and a meridionally arched pattern confined to the Pacific-North American sector, induced by the SST anomaly in the west and the east Pacific, respectively. Extratropical air-sea coupling enhances the annular component of response to the tropical west Pacific SST anomalies.

A diagnosis based on linear dynamical models suggests that the two responses are primarily maintained by transient eddy forcing. In both cases, the model transient eddy forcing response has a maximum near the exit of the Pacific jet, but with a different meridional position relative to the upper-level jet. The emergence of an annular response is found to be very sensitive to whether transient eddy forcing anomalies occur within the axis of the jet core. For forcing within the jet core, energy propagates poleward and downstream, inducing an annular response. For forcing away from the jet core, energy propagates equatorward and downstream, inducing a trapped regional response. The selection of an annular versus a regionally confined tropospheric response is thus postulated to depend on how the storm tracks respond. Tropical west Pacific SST forcing is particularly effective in exciting the required storm-track response from which a hemisphere-wide teleconnection structure emerges.