In This Chapter

Circulation Patterns: Atmospheric and Oceanic

Authored by: Marcia Glaze Wyatt

Atmosphere and Climate

Print publication date:  June  2020
Online publication date:  May  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138339675
eBook ISBN: 9780429440984
Adobe ISBN:


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Solar energy drives the Earth’s climate. Ocean and atmosphere temper extremes imposed by that energy; circulation patterns play key roles. There are both oceanic and atmospheric patterns; yet the ocean and atmosphere do not function in isolation. They communicate. Short-lived atmospheric shifts imprint upon the ocean. In turn, via subsurface dynamics, oceans encode these signals into long-term “memories,” which subsequently are carried to distant longitudes and latitudes and are communicated back to the atmosphere along the journey. Through atmospheric and oceanic linkages, all regional patterns interconnect to one degree or another. This is seen on interannual-to-multidecadal timescales, with changes in one circulation pattern amending details of another. Long-term variations in background conditions further modify circulation-pattern details. Per consequence, relationships among patterns that persist for years may disappear for years, and then return. Despite nonstationary correlations that may emerge over time, the collective end result of atmospheric-oceanic patterns and their coupled relationships is to redistribute heat, taking it from where there is more to where there is less, promoting exit of excess energy to space. In this way, extremes are damped and stability of the climate system enhanced. This chapter provides a review.

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