The effect of anthropogenic aerosols on the aleutian low

William J. Dow, Amanda C. Maycock, Marcus Lofverstrom, Christopher J. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Past studies have suggested that regional trends in anthropogenic aerosols can influence the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) through modulation of the Aleutian low. However, the robustness of this connection is debated. This study analyzes changes to the Aleutian low in an ensemble of climate models forced with large, idealized global and regional black carbon (BC) and sulfate aerosol perturbations. To isolate the role of ocean feedbacks, the experiments are performed with an interactive ocean and with prescribed sea surface temperatures. The results show a robust weakening of the Aleutian low forced by a global tenfold increase in BC in both experiment configurations. A linearized steady-state primitive equation model is forced with diabatic heating anomalies to investigate the mechanisms through which heating from BC emissions influences the Aleutian low. The heating from BC absorption over India and East Asia generates Rossby wave trains that propagate into the North Pacific sector, forming an upper-tropospheric ridge. Sources of BC outside of East Asia enhance the weakening of the Aleutian low. The responses to a global fivefold and regional tenfold increase in sulfate aerosols over Asia show poor consistency across climate models, with a multimodel mean response that does not project strongly onto the Aleutian low. These findings for a large, idealized step increase in regional sulfate aerosol differ from previous studies that suggest the transient increase in sulfate aerosols over Asia during the early twenty-first century weakened the Aleutian low and induced a transition to a negative PDO phase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1725-1741
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Aerosols/particulates
  • Model comparison
  • Pacific decadal oscillation
  • Primitive equations model
  • Rossby waves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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