An Equatorial–Extratropical Dipole Structure of the Atlantic Niño
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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- Geophysical Institute 
Equatorial Atlantic variability is dominated by the Atlantic Niño peaking during the boreal summer. Studies have shown robust links of the Atlantic Niño to fluctuations of the St. Helena subtropical anticyclone and Benguela Niño events. Furthermore, the occurrence of opposite sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the eastern equatorial and southwestern extratropical South Atlantic Ocean (SAO), also peaking in boreal summer, has recently been identified and termed the SAO dipole (SAOD). However, the extent to which and how the Atlantic Niño and SAOD are related remain unclear. Here, an analysis of historical observations reveals the Atlantic Niño as a possible intrinsic equatorial arm of the SAOD. Specifically, the observed sporadic equatorial warming characteristic of the Atlantic Niño (~0.4 K) is consistently linked to southwestern cooling (~−0.4 K) of the Atlantic Ocean during the boreal summer. Heat budget calculations show that the SAOD is largely driven by the surface net heat flux anomalies while ocean dynamics may be of secondary importance. Perturbations of the St. Helena anticyclone appear to be the dominant mechanism triggering the surface heat flux anomalies. A weakening of the anticyclone will tend to weaken the prevailing northeasterlies and enhance evaporative cooling over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean. In the equatorial region, the southeast trade winds weaken, thereby suppressing evaporation and leading to net surface warming. Thus, it is hypothesized that the wind–evaporation–SST feedback may be responsible for the growth of the SAOD events linking southern extratropics and equatorial Atlantic variability via surface net heat flux anomalies.