Large Uncertainty in the Relative Rates of Dynamical and Hydrological Tropical Expansion

William J.M. Seviour*, Sean M. Davis, Kevin M. Grise, Darryn W. Waugh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
295 Downloads (Pure)


Climate models predict that the Hadley circulation will expand poleward in a warmer climate, a trend which may cause significant changes in global precipitation patterns. However, recent studies have disagreed as to how strongly changes in the Hadley circulation and changes in the hydrological cycle (specifically the latitude at which precipitation balances evaporation) are related. Here we analyze dynamical and hydrological measures of the Southern Hemisphere edge of the tropics using simulations from the fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) and four reanalysis data sets. In simulations with an abrupt quadrupling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations, all models show a poleward expansion in both metrics. However, there is a large spread among models; the ratio of the hydrological to dynamical expansions varies from 0.6 to 1.4. We show that this model spread can be largely explained by differences in internal variability, which in turn is related to the mean state of models. Differences in mean states among reanalyses are similar to those of models, and so reanalyses do not help constrain uncertainty in model trends.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1106-1113
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2018


  • CMIP5
  • Hadley cell
  • hydrological cycle
  • reanalyses
  • tropical expansion


Dive into the research topics of 'Large Uncertainty in the Relative Rates of Dynamical and Hydrological Tropical Expansion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this