loading page

The Intrinsic 150-day Periodicity of the Southern Hemisphere Extratropical Large-Scale Atmospheric Circulation
  • Sandro W. Lubis,
  • Pedram Hassanzadeh
Sandro W. Lubis
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (DOE)
Author Profile
Pedram Hassanzadeh
Rice University

Corresponding Author:ph25@rice.edu

Author Profile


The variability of the Southern Hemisphere (SH) extratropical large-scale circulation is dominated by the Southern Annular Mode (SAM), whose timescale is extensively used as a key metric in evaluating state-of-the-art climate models. Past observational and theoretical studies suggest that the SAM lacks any internally generated (intrinsic) periodicity. Here, we show, using observations and a climate model hierarchy, that the SAM has an intrinsic 150-day periodicity. This periodicity is robustly detectable in the power spectra and principal oscillation patterns (aka dynamical mode decomposition) of the zonal-mean circulation, and in hemispheric-scale precipitation and ocean surface wind stress. The 150-day period is consistent with the predictions of a new reduced-order model for the SAM, which suggests that this periodicity is tied with a complex interaction of turbulent eddies and zonal wind anomalies, as the latter propagate from low to high latitudes. These findings present a rare example of periodic oscillations arising from the internal dynamics of the extratropical turbulent circulations. Based on these findings, we further propose a new metric for evaluating climate models, and show that some of the previously reported shortcomings and improvements in simulating SAM’s variability connect to the models’ ability in reproducing this periodicity. We argue that this periodicity should be considered in evaluating climate models and understanding the past, current, and projected Southern Hemisphere climate variability.