A distinctly interdecadal signal of Pacific Ocean-atmosphere interaction Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract 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 oceanatmosphere interaction exhibits a highly statistically significant interdecadal component yet contains little to no interannual (El Nio 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 Oceanatmosphere system. The residual variability of the Pacifics leading SST pattern, after removal of the IPS, is highly correlated with El Nio 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 Nio variability, the interdecadal oceanatmosphere 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 Oceanatmosphere system has potentially important and widespread implications to climate forecasting and climate impact assessment.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Frauenfeld, O. W., Davis, R. E., & Mann, M. E.

citation count

  • 21

complete list of authors

  • Frauenfeld, OW||Davis, RE||Mann, ME

publication date

  • June 2005