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  • Author or Editor: Qinghua Ding x
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Xiaofang Feng
Qinghua Ding
Liguang Wu
Charles Jones
Huijun Wang
Mitchell Bushuk
, and
Dániel Topál


The central role of tropical sea surface temperature (SST) variability in modulating Northern Hemisphere (NH) extratropical climate has long been known. However, the prevailing pathways of teleconnections in observations and the ability of climate models to replicate these observed linkages remain elusive. Here, we apply maximum covariance analysis between atmospheric circulation and tropical SST to reveal two coexisting tropical–extratropical teleconnections albeit with distinctive spatiotemporal characteristics. The first mode, resembling the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern, favors a tropical–Arctic in-phase (warm Pacific–warm Arctic) teleconnection in boreal spring and winter. However, the second mode, with a slight seasonal preference of summer, is manifested as an elongated Rossby wave train emanating from the tropical eastern Pacific that features an out-of-phase relationship (cold Pacific–warm Arctic) between tropical central Pacific SSTs and temperature variability over the Arctic (referred to as the PARC mode). While climate models participating in phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) appear to successfully simulate the PNA mode and its temporal characteristics, the majority of models’ skill in reproducing the PARC mode is obstructed to some extent by biases in simulating low-frequency SST and rainfall variability over the tropical eastern Pacific and the climatological mean flow over the North Pacific during boreal summer. Considering the contribution of the PARC mode in shaping low-frequency climate variations over the past 42 years from the tropics to the Arctic, improving models’ capability to capture the PARC mode is essential to reduce uncertainties associated with decadal prediction and climate change projection over the NH.

Significance Statement

This study focuses on the skill of models in phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) in simulating two leading observed Northern Hemisphere (NH) teleconnections that show distinctive spatial and temporal characteristics. The first one, the Pacific–North American (PNA) mode, exhibits a warm Pacific–warm Arctic pattern in boreal spring and winter, and the second one, the Pacific–Arctic (PARC) mode, features a cold Pacific–warm Arctic out-of-phase relationship. We find that models are skillful in simulating the PNA mode but not the PARC mode. This limitation may be rooted in unrealistic simulations of the mean state of winds and the low-frequency sea surface temperature variability in the tropical eastern Pacific. These biases call for caution when interpreting current models’ projections of extratropical circulations on multidecadal time scales.

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