Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Publication Date
23 February 2018

Linear and Nonlinear Winter Atmospheric Responses to Extreme Phases of Low-Frequency Pacific Sea Surface Temperature Variability



This study examines Northern Hemisphere winter (DJFM) atmospheric responses to opposite strong phases of interdecadal (low frequency, LF) Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) forcing, which resembles El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on a longer time scale, in observations and GFDL and CAM4 model simulations. Over the Pacific–North America (PNA) sector, linear observed responses of 500-hPa height (Z500) anomalies resemble the PNA teleconnection pattern but show a PNA-like nonlinear response because of a westward Z500 shift in the negative (LF−) relative to the positive LF (LF+) phase. Significant extratropical linear responses include a North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)-like Z500 anomaly, a dipole-like Z500 anomaly over northern Eurasia associated with warming over mid-high latitude Eurasia, and a Southern Annular anomaly pattern associated with warming in southern land areas. Significant nonlinear Z500 responses also include an NAO-like anomaly pattern. Models forced by LF+ and LF− SST anomalies reproduce many aspects of observed linear and nonlinear responses over the Pacific–North America sector, and linear responses over southern land, but not in the North Atlantic–European sector and Eurasia. Both models simulate PNA-like linear responses in the North Pacific–North America region similar to observed, but show larger PNA-like LF+ responses, resulting in a PNA nonlinear response. The nonlinear PNA responses result from both nonlinear western tropical Pacific rainfall changes and extratropical transient eddy feedbacks. With LF tropical Pacific forcing only (LFTP+ and LFTP−, climatological SST elsewhere), CAM4 simulates a significant NAO response to LFTP−, including a linear negative and nonlinear positive NAO response.

“Linear And Nonlinear Winter Atmospheric Responses To Extreme Phases Of Low-Frequency Pacific Sea Surface Temperature Variability”. 2018. Climate Dynamics 52: 49-68. doi:10.1007/s00382-018-4127-1.
Funding Program Area(s)