North Atlantic climate variability in coupled models and data
Kravtsov, Sergey K.
Dewar, William K.
Berloff, Pavel S.
McWilliams, James C.
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We show that the observed zonally averaged jet in the Northern Hemisphere atmosphere exhibits two spatial patterns with broadband variability in the decadal and inter-decadal range; these patterns are consistent with an important role of local, mid-latitude ocean–atmosphere coupling. A key aspect of this behaviour is the fundamentally nonlinear bi-stability of the atmospheric jet's latitudinal position, which enables relatively small sea-surface temperature anomalies associated with ocean processes to affect the large-scale atmospheric winds. The wind anomalies induce, in turn, complex three-dimensional anomalies in the ocean's main thermocline; in particular, they may be responsible for recently reported cooling of the upper ocean. Both observed modes of variability, decadal and inter-decadal, have been found in our intermediate climate models. One mode resembles North Atlantic tri-polar sea-surface temperature (SST) patterns described elsewhere. The other mode, with mono-polar SST pattern, is novel; its key aspects include interaction of oceanic turbulence with the large-scale oceanic flow. To the extent these anomalies exist, the interpretation of observed climate variability in terms of natural and human-induced changes will be affected. Coupled mid-latitude ocean-atmosphere modes do, however, suggest some degree of predictability is possible.
© 2008 The Authors. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics 15 (2008): 13-24, doi:10.5194/npg-15-13-2008
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