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Indices of Pacific Walker Circulation strength: trends, correlations and uncertainty
  • Katarina Kosovelj,
  • Žiga Zaplotnik,
  • Nedjeljka Žagar
Katarina Kosovelj
University of Ljubljana

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Žiga Zaplotnik
European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Bonn, Germany
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Nedjeljka Žagar
Universität Hamburg, Meteorological Institute
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The strength of Pacific Walker circulation (PWC) significantly affects the global weather patterns, the distribution of mean precipitation, and modulates the rate of global warming. Different indices have been used to assess the PWC strength. Evaluated on different datasets for various study periods, the indices show large discrepancies between the reported trends. In this study, we performed sensitivity analysis of 10 PWC indices and compared them over the 1951-2020 period using the ERA5 reanalyses.
The time series of normalised indices generally agree on the annual-mean PWC strength. The highest correlations (exceeding r=0.9) are between the indices that describe closely linked physical processes.
The trends of PWC strength are strongly affected by the choice of representative time period. For the commonly used 1981-2010 period, the trends show strengthening of the PWC. However, trends computed for longer period (i.e. 1951-2020) are mostly neutral, whereas the past two decades (2000-2020) display weakening of the PWC, although it is statistically not significant. The temporal evolution of trends suggests multidecadal variability of PWC strength with a period of about 35 years, implying a continued weakening of the PWC in the next decade.