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ENSO-like Interdecadal Variability: 1900–93

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
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Abstract

A number of recent studies have reported an ENSO-like EOF mode in the global sea surface temperature (SST) field, whose time variability is marked by an abrupt change toward a warmer tropical eastern Pacific and a colder extratropical central North Pacific in 1976–77. The present study compares this pattern with the structure of the interannual variability associated with the ENSO cycle and documents its time history back to 1900. The analysis is primarily based on the leading EOFs of the SST anomaly and “anomaly deviation” fields in various domains and the associated expansion coefficient (or principal component) time series, which are used to construct global regression maps of SST, sea level pressure (SLP), and a number of related variables. The use of “anomaly deviations” (i.e., departures of local SST anomalies from the concurrent global-mean SST anomaly) reduces the influence of global-mean SST trends upon the structure of the EOFs and their expansion coefficient time series. An important auxiliary time series used in this study is a “Southern Oscillation index” based on marine surface observations.

By means of several different analysis techniques, the time variability of the leading EOF of the global SST field is separated into two components: one identified with the “ENSO cycle-related” variability on the interannual timescale, and the other a linearly independent “residual” comprising all the interdecadal variability in the record. The two components exhibit rather similar spatial signatures in the global SST, SLP, and wind stress fields. The SST signature in the residual variability is less equatorially confined in the eastern Pacific and it is relatively more prominent over the extratropical North Pacific. The corresponding SLP signature is also stronger over the extratropical North Pacific, and its counterpart in the cold season 500-mb height field more closely resembles the PNA pattern. The amplitude time series of the ENSO-like pattern in the residual variability reflects the above-mentioned shift in 1976–77, as well as a number of other prominent features, including a shift of opposite polarity during the 1940s.

Corresponding author address: J. M. Wallace, University of Washington, Box 351640, Seattle, WA 98195-1640.

Email: wallace@atmos.washington.edu

Abstract

A number of recent studies have reported an ENSO-like EOF mode in the global sea surface temperature (SST) field, whose time variability is marked by an abrupt change toward a warmer tropical eastern Pacific and a colder extratropical central North Pacific in 1976–77. The present study compares this pattern with the structure of the interannual variability associated with the ENSO cycle and documents its time history back to 1900. The analysis is primarily based on the leading EOFs of the SST anomaly and “anomaly deviation” fields in various domains and the associated expansion coefficient (or principal component) time series, which are used to construct global regression maps of SST, sea level pressure (SLP), and a number of related variables. The use of “anomaly deviations” (i.e., departures of local SST anomalies from the concurrent global-mean SST anomaly) reduces the influence of global-mean SST trends upon the structure of the EOFs and their expansion coefficient time series. An important auxiliary time series used in this study is a “Southern Oscillation index” based on marine surface observations.

By means of several different analysis techniques, the time variability of the leading EOF of the global SST field is separated into two components: one identified with the “ENSO cycle-related” variability on the interannual timescale, and the other a linearly independent “residual” comprising all the interdecadal variability in the record. The two components exhibit rather similar spatial signatures in the global SST, SLP, and wind stress fields. The SST signature in the residual variability is less equatorially confined in the eastern Pacific and it is relatively more prominent over the extratropical North Pacific. The corresponding SLP signature is also stronger over the extratropical North Pacific, and its counterpart in the cold season 500-mb height field more closely resembles the PNA pattern. The amplitude time series of the ENSO-like pattern in the residual variability reflects the above-mentioned shift in 1976–77, as well as a number of other prominent features, including a shift of opposite polarity during the 1940s.

Corresponding author address: J. M. Wallace, University of Washington, Box 351640, Seattle, WA 98195-1640.

Email: wallace@atmos.washington.edu

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