Articles | Volume 8, issue 4
Research article
19 Jul 2012
Research article |  | 19 Jul 2012

Changes in the strength and width of the Hadley Circulation since 1871

J. Liu, M. Song, Y. Hu, and X. Ren

Abstract. Recent studies demonstrate that the Hadley Circulation has intensified and expanded for the past three decades, which has important implications for subtropical societies and may lead to profound changes in global climate. However, the robustness of this intensification and expansion that should be considered when interpreting long-term changes of the Hadley Circulation is still a matter of debate. It also remains largely unknown how the Hadley Circulation has evolved over longer periods. Here, we present long-term variability of the Hadley Circulation using the 20th Century Reanalysis. It shows a slight strengthening and widening of the Hadley Circulation since the late 1970s, which is not inconsistent with recent assessments. However, over centennial timescales (1871–2008), the Hadley Circulation shows a tendency towards a more intense and narrower state. More importantly, the width of the Hadley Circulation might have not yet completed a life-cycle since 1871. The strength and width of the Hadley Circulation during the late 19th to early 20th century show strong natural variability, exceeding variability that coincides with global warming in recent decades. These findings raise the question of whether the recent change in the Hadley Circulation is primarily attributed to greenhouse warming or to a long-period oscillation of the Hadley Circulation – substantially longer than that observed in previous studies.