Predictable climate impacts of the decadal changes in the ocean in the 1990s
To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00827.1
During the 1990s there was a major change in the state of the world's oceans. In particular, the North Atlantic underwent a rapid warming, with sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the subpolar gyre region increasing by 1°C in just a few years. Associated with the changes in SST patterns were changes in the surface climate, in particular, a tendency for warm and dry conditions over areas of North America in all seasons, and warm springs and wet summers over areas of Europe. Here, the extent to which a climate prediction system initialized using observations of the ocean state is able to capture the observed changes in seasonal mean surface climate is investigated. Rather than examining predictions of the mid-1990s North Atlantic warming event itself, this study compares hindcasts started before and after the warming, relative to hindcasts that do not assimilate information. It is demonstrated that the hindcasts capture many aspects of the observed changes in seasonal mean surface climate, especially in North, South, and Central America and in Europe. Furthermore, the prediction system retains skill beyond the first year. Finally, it is shown that, in addition to memory of Atlantic SSTs, successfully predicting Pacific SSTs was likely important for the hindcasts to predict surface climate over North America.