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Tropical Belt Width Proportionately More Sensitive to Aerosols Than Greenhouse Gases
  • Xueying Zhao
Xueying Zhao
University of California Riverside

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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The tropical belt has widened during the last several decades, and both internal variability and anthropogenic forcings have contributed. Although greenhouse gases and stratospheric ozone depletion have been implicated as primary anthropogenic drivers of tropical expansion, the possible role of other drivers remains uncertain. Here, we analyze the tropical belt width response to idealized perturbations in multiple models. Our results show that absorbing black carbon (BC) aerosol drives tropical expansion, and scattering sulfate aerosol drives contraction. BC, especially from Asia, is more ecient per unit radiative forcing than greenhouse gases in driving tropical expansion, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. Tropical belt expansion (contraction) is associated with an increase (decrease) in extratropical static stability induced by absorbing (scattering) aerosol. Although a formal attribution is dicult, scaling the normalized expansion rates to the historical time period suggests that BC is the largest driver of the Northern Hemisphere tropical widening but with relatively large uncertainty.
16 Apr 2020Published in Geophysical Research Letters volume 47 issue 7. 10.1029/2019GL086425