Zonally contrasting shifts of the tropical rain belt in response to climate change

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Abstract

Future changes in the position of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ; a narrow band of heavy precipitation in the tropics) with climate change could affect the livelihood and food security of billions of people. Although models predict a future narrowing of the ITCZ, uncertainties remain large regarding its future position, with most past work focusing on zonal-mean shifts. Here we use projections from 27 state-of-the-art climate models and document a robust zonally varying ITCZ response to the SSP3-7.0 scenario by 2100, with a northward shift over eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean and a southward shift in the eastern Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The zonally varying response is consistent with changes in the divergent atmospheric energy transport and sector-mean shifts of the energy flux equator. Our analysis provides insight about mechanisms influencing the future position of the tropical rain belt and may allow for more-robust projections of climate change impacts.

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Mamalakis, A., Randerson, J. T., Yu, J. Y., Pritchard, M. S., Magnusdottir, G., Smyth, P., … Foufoula-Georgiou, E. (2021). Zonally contrasting shifts of the tropical rain belt in response to climate change. Nature Climate Change, 11(2), 143–151. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-00963-x

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