Latitudinally asymmetric response of global surface temperature: Implications for regional climate change Academic Article uri icon


  • The Earth's climate system was subject to two multidecadal warming trends in the beginning (19101940) and end (19752005) of the 20th century, having been interrupted only by a cooling trend in midcentury (19401975). The spatiotemporal distribution of surface temperature during this time, especially the landocean warming contrast in recent decades, has been the subject of many climate change detection studies. The focus of this study is the southtonorth warming asymmetry and we observed a similar Latitudinal Asymmetry of Temperature Change (LATC) for the two warming subperiods and the cooling subperiod. Basically, the temperature change was low in the Southern Hemisphere extratropics (60S) and increased monotonically to peak values (0.15C/decade for warming trends) in the Northern Hemisphere extratropics (60N). We hypothesized that the LATC is a fundamental characteristic of the planet's transient response to global forcing. We tested this hypothesis using climate model simulations of CO2 and aerosol forcing, and the simulations revealed very similar LATC as seen in the observations. In the simulations, the LATC did not depend on the asymmetry of the forcing and furthermore weakened significantly in equilibrium simulations, leading to the deduction that the LATC was caused by a corresponding asymmetry in the landocean fraction, i.e., the analyses of model simulations supported the hypothesis of LATC being a fundamental characteristic of the planet's transient response. If LATC is preserved as the planet warms beyond 2C, precipitation patterns can be drastically disrupted in the tropics and subtropics, with major implications for regional climate.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 14.544

author list (cited authors)

  • Xu, Y., & Ramanathan, V.

citation count

  • 29

complete list of authors

  • Xu, Yangyang||Ramanathan, Veerabhadran

publication date

  • July 2012