A distinctly interdecadal signal of Pacific ocean-atmosphere interaction

Oliver W. Frauenfeld, Robert E. Davis, Michael E. Mann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


A new and distinctly interdecadal signal in the climate of the Pacific Ocean has been uncovered by examining the coupled behavior of sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation. This interdecadal Pacific signal (IPS) of ocean-atmosphere interaction exhibits a highly statistically significant interdecadal component yet contains little to no interannual (El Niño scale) variability common to other Pacific climate anomaly patterns. The IPS thus represents the only empirically derived, distinctly interdecadal signal of Pacific Ocean SST variability that likely also represents the true interdecadal behavior of the Pacific Ocean-atmosphere system. The residual variability of the Pacific's leading SST pattern, after removal of the IPS, is highly correlated with El Niño anomalies. This indicates that by simply including an atmospheric component, the leading mode of Pacific SST variability has been decomposed into its interdecadal and interannual patterns. Although the interdecadal signal is unrelated to interannual El Niño variability, the interdecadal ocean-atmosphere variability still seems closely linked to tropical Pacific SSTs. Because prior abrupt changes in Pacific SSTs have been related to anomalies in a variety of physical and biotic parameters throughout the Northern Hemisphere, and because of the persistence of these changes over several decades, isolation of this interdecadal signal in the Pacific Ocean-atmosphere system has potentially important and widespread implications to climate forecasting and climate impact assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1709-1718
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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