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Climate Dynamics



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), the leading mode of Pacific decadal sea surface temperature variability, arises mainly from combinations of regional air-sea interaction within the North Pacific Ocean and remote forcing, such as from the tropical Pacific and the Atlantic. Because of such a combination of mechanisms, a question remains as to how much PDO variability originates from these regions. To better understand PDO variability, the equatorial Pacific and the Atlantic impacts on the PDO are examined using several 3-dimensional partial ocean data assimilation experiments conducted with two global climate models: the CESM1.0 and MIROC3.2m. In these partial assimilation experiments, the climate models are constrained by observed temperature and salinity anomalies, one solely in the Atlantic basin and the other solely in the equatorial Pacific basin, but are allowed to evolve freely in other regions. These experiments demonstrate that, in addition to the tropical Pacific’s role in driving PDO variability, the Atlantic can affect PDO variability by modulating the tropical Pacific climate through two proposed processes. One is the equatorial pathway, in which tropical Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) variability causes an El Niño-like SST response in the equatorial Pacific through the reorganization of the global Walker circulation. The other is the north tropical pathway, where low-frequency SST variability associated with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation induces a Matsuno-Gill type atmospheric response in the tropical Atlantic-Pacific sectors north of the equator. These results provide a quantitative assessment suggesting that 12–29% of PDO variance originates from the Atlantic Ocean and 40–44% from the tropical Pacific. The remaining 27–48% of the variance is inferred to arise from other processes such as regional ocean-atmosphere interactions in the North Pacific and possibly teleconnections from the Indian Ocean.

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