Regime shifts found in the Northern Hemisphere SST field

Sayaka Yasunaka, Kimio Hanawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


A 'regime shift' is characterized by an abrupt transition from one quasi-steady climatic state to another, and its transition period is much shorter than the lengths of the individual epochs of each climatic state. In the present study, we investigate when regime shifts occurred and what was the difference in climatic states before and after the shifts, using the wintertime sea surface temperature (SST) field in the Northern Hemisphere. The relationship between changes in the SST field, and those in the atmospheric circulation, is also investigated. In order to detect organized patterns of the SST variations, we apply an empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis. As the results, the first mode is identical to El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and so-called Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), and corresponds to the Pacific/North American (PNA) pattern. The second mode, which relates to the Arctic Oscillation (AO), has a zonally elongated signal in both the North Atlantic, and North Pacific. EOF analyses to each oceanic basin are made separately, and the robustness of these modes is confirmed. In the present study, we define the regime shifts as the 'significant' and 'systematic' changes between the two quasi-steady states, continuing more than 5 years. Then, in order to identify the years when regime shifts occurred in the SST field, we carefully inspect the time series of original gridded SST data and those of the EOF modes. As a result, six regime shifts are detected in the study period from the 1910s to the 1990s: 1925/26, 1945/46, 1957/58, 1970/77, 1976/77 and 1988/89. It is ascertained that the shifts at almost all grids are completed within one year. All regime shifts having similar SST and atmospheric circulation pattern, including the changes in an intensity of the Aleutian Low (AL), and the corresponding SST changes in the central North Pacific. All regime shifts can be well described by the combination of the first and the second EOF modes. The duration between each regime shift is about 10 years, which are identical to the PDO. The simultaneous shifts in the first, and the second EOF modes, imply that the change in the AL activity associated with the PNA pattern, might have some connection with that of the AO.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-135
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Meteorological Society of Japan
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002 Feb

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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