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The Pacific Decadal Oscillation less predictable under greenhouse warming
March 09,2020

Published in Nature Climate Change 16 December 2019

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is the most prominent form of decadal variability over the North Pacific, characterized by its horseshoe-shaped sea surface temperature anomaly pattern1,2. The PDO exerts a substantial influence on marine ecosystems, fisheries and agriculture1,2,3. Through modulating global mean temperature, the phase shift of the PDO at the end of the twentieth century is suggested to be an influential factor in the recent surface warming hiatus4,5. Determining the predictability of the PDO in a warming climate is therefore of great importance6. By analysing future climate under different emission scenarios simulated by the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (ref. 7), we show that the prediction lead time and the associated amplitude of the PDO decrease sharply under greenhouse warming conditions. This decrease is largely attributable to a warming-induced intensification of oceanic stratification, which accelerates the propagation of Rossby waves, shortening the PDO lifespan and suppressing its amplitude by limiting its growth time. Our results suggest that greenhouse warming will make prediction of the PDO more challenging, with far-reaching ramifications.

Li, S., Wu, L., Yang, Y. et al. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation less predictable under greenhouse warming. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 30–34 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0663-x

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