Multiscale variabilities in global sea surface temperatures and their relationships with tropospheric climate patterns

  • Enfield D
  • Mestas-Nuñez A
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El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a global phenomenon with significant phase propagation within and between basins. This is captured and described in the first mode of a complex empirical orthogonal function (CEOF) analysis of sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) from the midnineteenth century through 1991. The global ENSO from the SSTA data, plus a linear trend everywhere, are subsequently removed in order to consider other global modes of variability uncontaminated by the intra- and interbasin effects of ENSO. An ordinary CEOF analysis of the SSTA residuals reveals three non-ENSO modes of low-frequency variability that are related to slow oceanic and climate signals described in the literature. The first two modes have decadal to multidecadal timescales with high loadings in the Pacific. They bear some spatial similarities to the ENSO pattern but are broader, more intense at high latitudes, and differ in the time domain. A CEOF analysis confirms that they are not merely the phase-related components of a single mode and that all three modes are without significant phase propagation. The third mode is a multidecadal signal with maximal realization in the extratropical North Atlantic southeast of Greenland. It is consistent with studies that have documented connections between North Atlantic SSTA and the tropospheric North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). All three SSTA modes have midtropospheric associations related to previously classified Northern Hemisphere teleconnection patterns. The relationships between SSTA modes and tropospheric patterns are consistent with the ocean-atmosphere interactions discussed in previous studies to explain low-frequency climate oscillations in the North Pacific and North Atlantic sectors. The first three leading modes of non-ENSO SSTA are most related, to the tropospheric patterns of the Pacific North American, the North Pacific, and the Arctic oscillations (AO), respectively. The 500-hPa pattern associated with the third SSTA mode also bears similarities to the NAO in its Atlantic sector. This North Atlantic mode has a region of high, positive SSTA loadings in the Gulf of Alaska, which appear to be connected to the North Atlantic SSTA by a tropospheric bridge effect in the AO.

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  • David B. Enfield

  • Alberto M. Mestas-Nuñez

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