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Climate Dynamics



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The atmospheric circulation patterns associated with the Pacific quasi-decadal oscillation (QDO) are investigated using available observational data from 1948 to 2007. Previous studies indicate that the Pacific QDO is characterized by a distinct lifecycle in the form of sea surface temperature (SST) patterns. In the warm and cool phases of the Pacific QDO, the SST patterns resemble those associated with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). During the warm–cool and cool–warm transitions of the Pacific QDO, recurrent SST patterns are also clearly visible. The rotated empirical orthogonal function analysis on the 10–15 year filtered data shows that the evolutions of SST and atmospheric circulation are well coupled. While the warm-/cool-phase Pacific QDO generates an ENSO-like circulation pattern, the transition phases form a distinct short-wave train emanating from Southeast Asia towards North America. This short-wave train is particularly robust in the streamfunction of water vapor flux. Diagnostic analyses of the heat budget, the stationary wave flux, and a barotropic model indicate that this short-wave train is thermodynamically maintained and is likely forced by diabatic heating near Southeast Asia. Additional modulations of forcing sources in the western and eastern tropical Pacific on this short-wave teleconnection are also discussed.