Influence of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation on the U.S. extreme cold weather

Jianjun Yin, Ming Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Due to its large northward heat transport, the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation influences both weather and climate at the mid-latitude Northern Hemisphere. Here we use a state-of-the-art global weather/climate modeling system with high resolution (GFDL CM4C192) to quantify this influence focusing on the U.S. extreme cold weather during winter. We perform a control simulation and the water-hosing experiment to obtain two climate states with and without a vigorous Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. We find that in the control simulation with an overturning circulation, the U.S. east of the Rockies is a region characterized by intense north-south heat exchange in the atmosphere during winter. Without the northward heat transport by the overturning circulation in the hosing experiment, this channel of atmospheric heat exchange becomes even more active through the Bjerknes compensation mechanism. Over the U.S., extreme cold weather intensifies disproportionately compared with the mean climate response after the shutdown of the overturning circulation. Our results suggest that an active overturning circulation in the present-day climate likely makes the U.S. winter less harsh and extreme.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number218
JournalCommunications Earth and Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


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