The Extraordinary Equatorial Atlantic Warming in Late 2019

Ingo Richter, Hiroki Tokinaga, Yuko M. Okumura

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) in the eastern equatorial Atlantic are subject to variability on interannual timescales but during the last 20 years, this variability has shown comparatively little activity. In late 2019, however, the warmest event in the satellite observation period developed. Analysis suggests that zonal wind stress anomalies in the western equatorial Atlantic contributed to the development of the warm SST anomalies. Furthermore, wind stress curl anomalies north of the equator generated downwelling Rossby waves that propagated to the western boundary and were reflected into downwelling Kelvin waves that helped to precondition the event. Neither the contemporaneous positive Indian Ocean Dipole nor the El Niño Modoki appears to have contributed substantially to the Atlantic warming, though some uncertainty remains. Based on large-scale multidecadal variability patterns, a return to enhanced variability is not imminent but careful monitoring will be important.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021GL095918
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 28 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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