nerc.ac.uk

Ocean impact on decadal Atlantic climate variability revealed by sea-level observations

McCarthy, Gerard D.; Haigh, Ivan D.; Hirschi, Joël J.-M.; Grist, Jeremy P.; Smeed, David A.. 2015 Ocean impact on decadal Atlantic climate variability revealed by sea-level observations. Nature, 521 (7553). 508-510. 10.1038/nature14491

Before downloading, please read NORA policies.
[img]
Preview
Text
mccarthy_manuscript_post_print.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (4MB) | Preview

Abstract/Summary

Decadal variability is a notable feature of the Atlantic Ocean and the climate of the regions it influences. Prominently, this is manifested in the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) in sea surface temperatures. Positive (negative) phases of the AMO coincide with warmer (colder) North Atlantic sea surface temperatures. The AMO is linked with decadal climate fluctuations, such as Indian and Sahel rainfall1, European summer precipitation2, Atlantic hurricanes3 and variations in global temperatures4. It is widely believed that ocean circulation drives the phase changes of the AMO by controlling ocean heat content5. However, there are no direct observations of ocean circulation of sufficient length to support this, leading to questions about whether the AMO is controlled from another source6. Here we provide observational evidence of the widely hypothesized link between ocean circulation and the AMO. We take a new approach, using sea level along the east coast of the United States to estimate ocean circulation on decadal timescales. We show that ocean circulation responds to the first mode of Atlantic atmospheric forcing, the North Atlantic Oscillation, through circulation changes between the subtropical and subpolar gyres—the intergyre region7. These circulation changes affect the decadal evolution of North Atlantic heat content and, consequently, the phases of the AMO. The Atlantic overturning circulation is declining8 and the AMO is moving to a negative phase. This may offer a brief respite from the persistent rise of global temperatures4, but in the coupled system we describe, there are compensating effects. In this case, the negative AMO is associated with a continued acceleration of sea-level rise along the northeast coast of the United States9, 10.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1038/nature14491
ISSN: 0028-0836
Date made live: 03 Jun 2015 16:01 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/510937

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...