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Keywords:

  • sunspots;
  • rainfall;
  • sub-tropical ridge;
  • zonal west winds;
  • Australia;
  • Southern Hemisphere;
  • fisheries;
  • animal population dynamics

Abstract

Atmospheric circulation in the southern mid-latitudes is dominated by strong circum-Antarctic zonal west winds (ZWW) over the latitude range of 35 to 60°S. These winds exhibit coherent seasonal and interannual variability, which has been related both to Antarctic (e.g. polar ice) and low-latitude climate (e.g. El Niño–southern oscillation) parameters. Historical and recent studies suggest that, at its northern margins, variability in the ZWW also has a marked quasi-decadal component. Analysis of sea-level pressure and rainfall data for the Australian region, South Africa and South America confirms frequent indications of quasi-decadal variability in parameters associated with the ZWW, which appears to be in phase around the hemisphere. This variation broadly correlates with the sunspot cycle, and specifically appears to reflect sunspot-correlated, seasonally modulated shifts in the latitude range each year of the sub-tropical ridge over eastern Australia. Sunspot-correlated variability in the southern mid-latitudes is likely to have substantial effects on temperate climate and ecology and is consistent with recent models of solar effects on upper atmospheric climate, though the mechanisms that link these to winds and rainfall at sea level remain obscure. Copyright © 2002 Royal Meteorological Society