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Sanchez, SC, Amaya DJ, Miller AJ, Xie SP, Charles CD.  2019.  The Pacific Meridional Mode over the last millennium. Climate Dynamics. 53:3547-3560.   10.1007/s00382-019-04740-1   AbstractWebsite

The Pacific Meridional Mode, a coupled ocean-atmospheric interaction responsible for propagating subtropical anomalies to the tropics via thermodynamic mechanisms, features prominently in discussions of the response of climate variability to climate change. However, it is presently unclear how and why the variance in PMM might change, or even if greenhouse gas forcing might lead to heightened activity. Here, PMM variance over the last millennium is assessed in the Community Earth System Model Last Millennium Ensemble (LME). The model reproduces the main spatial characteristics of the PMM in the modern ocean in agreement with observations. With this basis, we assess the magnitude of the PMM variance over the past millennium, subject to forcing from a variety of sources. Internal (unforced) variability dominates the PMM variance in the LME, but prolonged periods of strong or weak PMM variance are found to be associated with characteristic spatial patterns, consistent across ensemble members and forcing experiments. The pattern of strong PMM variance features a cooler north Pacific, weaker Walker circulation, and a southward-shifted ITCZ. Comparison with a slab ocean model suggests that equatorial ocean dynamics are necessary to sustain the statistically significant multidecadal variability. With respect to the last millennium, present greenhouse forcing does not promote exceptional PMM variance. However, the PMM variability projected in the RCP8.5 scenario exceeds the thresholds expressed with the forcings applied over the Last Millennium. Aside from multidecadal variability, the model simulations also bear on ENSO variability and the sensitivity of climate variability to external forcing.

Yi, DLL, Gan BL, Wu LX, Miller AJ.  2018.  The North Pacific Gyre Oscillation and Mechanisms of Its Decadal Variability in CMIP5 Models. Journal of Climate. 31:2487-2509.   10.1175/jcli-d-17-0344.1   AbstractWebsite

Based on the Simple Ocean Data Assimilation (SODA) product and 37 models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) database, the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO) and its decadal generation mechanisms are evaluated by studying the second leading modes of North Pacific sea surface height (SSH) and sea level pressure (SLP) as well as their dynamical connections. It is found that 17 out of 37 models can well simulate the spatial pattern and decadal time scales (10-30 yr) of the NPGO mode, which resembles the observation-based SODA results. Dynamical connections between the oceanic mode (NPGO) and the atmospheric mode [North Pacific Oscillation (NPO)] are strongly evident in both SODA and the 17 models. In particular, about 30%-40% of the variance of the NPGO variability, which generally exhibits a preferred time scale, can be explained by the NPO variability, which has no preferred time scale in most models. Two mechanisms of the decadal NPGO variability that had been proposed by previous studies are evaluated in SODA and the 17 models: 1) stochastic atmospheric forcing and oceanic spatial resonance and 2) low-frequency atmospheric teleconnections excited by the equatorial Pacific. Evaluation reveals that these two mechanisms are valid in SODA and two models (CNRM-CM5 and CNRM-CM5.2), whereas two models (CMCC-CM and CMCC-CMS) prefer the first mechanism and another two models (CMCC-CESM and IPSL-CM5B-LR) prefer the second mechanism. The other 11 models have no evident relations with the proposed two mechanisms, suggesting the need for a fundamental understanding of the decadal NPGO variability in the future.

Miller, AJ, Collins M, Gualdi S, Jensen TG, Misra V, Pezzi LP, Pierce DW, Putrasahan D, Seo H, Tseng YH.  2017.  Coupled ocean-atmosphere modeling and predictions. Journal of Marine Research. 75:361-402. AbstractWebsite

Key aspects of the current state of the ability of global and regional climate models to represent dynamical processes and precipitation variations are summarized. Interannual, decadal, and global-warming timescales, wherein the influence of the oceans is relevant and the potential for predictability is highest, are emphasized. Oceanic influences on climate occur throughout the ocean and extend over land to affect many types of climate variations, including monsoons, the El Nino Southern Oscillation, decadal oscillations, and the response to greenhouse gas emissions. The fundamental ideas of coupling between the ocean-atmosphere-land system are explained for these modes in both global and regional contexts. Global coupled climate models are needed to represent and understand the complicated processes involved and allow us to make predictions over land and sea. Regional coupled climate models are needed to enhance our interpretation of the fine-scale response. The mechanisms by which large-scale, low-frequency variations can influence shorter timescale variations and drive regional-scale effects are also discussed. In this light of these processes, the prospects for practical climate predictability are also presented.

Bromirski, PD, Flick RE, Miller AJ.  2017.  Storm surge along the Pacific coast of North America. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 122:441-457.   10.1002/2016jc012178   AbstractWebsite

Storm surge is an important factor that contributes to coastal flooding and erosion. Storm surge magnitude along eastern North Pacific coasts results primarily from low sea level pressure (SLP). Thus, coastal regions where high surge occurs identify the dominant locations where intense storms make landfall, controlled by storm track across the North Pacific. Here storm surge variability along the Pacific coast of North America is characterized by positive nontide residuals at a network of tide gauge stations from southern California to Alaska. The magnitudes of mean and extreme storm surge generally increase from south to north, with typically high amplitude surge north of Cape Mendocino and lower surge to the south. Correlation of mode 1 nontide principal component (PC1) during winter months (December-February) with anomalous SLP over the northeast Pacific indicates that the dominant storm landfall region is along the Cascadia/British Columbia coast. Although empirical orthogonal function spatial patterns show substantial interannual variability, similar correlation patterns of nontide PC1 over the 1948-1975 and 1983-2014 epochs with anomalous SLP suggest that, when considering decadal-scale time periods, storm surge and associated tracks have generally not changed appreciably since 1948. Nontide PC1 is well correlated with PC1 of both anomalous SLP and modeled wave height near the tide gauge stations, reflecting the interrelationship between storms, surge, and waves. Weaker surge south of Cape Mendocino during the 2015-2016 El Nino compared with 1982-1983 may result from changes in Hadley circulation. Importantly from a coastal impacts perspective, extreme storm surge events are often accompanied by high waves.

Yang, Y, Russell LM, Xu L, Lou SJ, Lamjiri MA, Somerville RCJ, Miller AJ, Cayan DR, DeFlorio MJ, Ghan SJ, Liu Y, Singh B, Wang HL, Yoon JH, Rasch PJ.  2016.  Impacts of ENSO events on cloud radiative effects in preindustrial conditions: Changes in cloud fraction and their dependence on interactive aerosol emissions and concentrations. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 121:6321-6335.   10.1002/2015jd024503   AbstractWebsite

We use three 150 year preindustrial simulations of the Community Earth System Model to quantify the impacts of El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events on shortwave and longwave cloud radiative effects (CRESW and CRELW). Compared to recent observations from the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System data set, the model simulation successfully reproduces larger variations of CRESW and CRELW over the tropics. The ENSO cycle is found to dominate interannual variations of cloud radiative effects. Simulated cooling (warming) effects from CRESW (CRELW) are strongest over the tropical western and central Pacific Ocean during warm ENSO events, with the largest difference between 20 and 60 W m(-2), with weaker effects of 10-40 W m(-2) over Indonesian regions and the subtropical Pacific Ocean. Sensitivity tests show that variations of cloud radiative effects are mainly driven by ENSO-related changes in cloud fraction. The variations in midlevel and high cloud fractions each account for approximately 20-50% of the interannual variations of CRESW over the tropics and almost all of the variations of CRELW between 60 degrees S and 60 degrees N. The variation of low cloud fraction contributes to most of the variations of CRESW over the midlatitude oceans. Variations in natural aerosol concentrations explained 10-30% of the variations of both CRESW and CRELW over the tropical Pacific, Indonesian regions, and the tropical Indian Ocean. Changes in natural aerosol emissions and concentrations enhance 3-5% and 1-3% of the variations of cloud radiative effects averaged over the tropics.

Subramanian, A, Jochum M, Miller AJ, Neale R, Seo H, Waliser D, Murtugudde R.  2014.  The MJO and global warming: a study in CCSM4. Climate Dynamics. 42:2019-2031.   10.1007/s00382-013-1846-1   AbstractWebsite

The change in Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO) amplitude and variance in response to anthropogenic climate change is assessed in the 1A degrees nominal resolution community climate system model, version 4 (CCSM4), which has a reasonable representation of the MJO characteristics both dynamically and statistically. The twentieth century CCSM4 run is compared with the warmest twenty-first century projection (representative concentration pathway 8.5, or RCP8.5). The last 20 years of each simulation are compared in their MJO characteristics, including spatial variance distributions of winds, precipitation and outgoing longwave radiation, histograms of event amplitude, phase and duration, and composite maps of phases. The RCP8.5 run exhibits increased variance in intraseasonal precipitation, larger-amplitude MJO events, stronger MJO rainfall in the central and eastern tropical Pacific, and a greater frequency of MJO occurrence for phases corresponding to enhanced rainfall in the Indian Ocean sector. These features are consistent with the concept of an increased magnitude for the hydrological cycle under greenhouse warming conditions. Conversely, the number of active MJO days decreases and fewer weak MJO events occur in the future climate state. These results motivate further study of these changes since tropical rainfall variability plays such an important role in the region's socio-economic well being.

Franks, PJS, Di Lorenzo E, Goebel NL, Chenillat F, Riviere P, Edward CA, Miller AJ.  2013.  Modeling physical-biological responses to climate change in the California Current system. Oceanography. 26:26-33. AbstractWebsite

Understanding the effects of climate change on planktonic ecosystems requires the synthesis of large, diverse data sets of variables that often interact in nonlinear ways. One fruitful approach to this synthesis is the use of numerical models. Here, we describe how models have been used to gain understanding of the physical-biological couplings leading to decadal changes in the southern California Current ecosystem. Moving from basin scales to local scales, we show how atmospheric, physical oceanographic, and biological dynamics interact to create long-term fluctuations in the dynamics of the California Current ecosystem.

Song, H, Miller AJ, McClatchie S, Weber ED, Nieto KM, Checkley DM.  2012.  Application of a data-assimilation model to variability of Pacific sardine spawning and survivor habitats with ENSO in the California Current System. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 117   10.1029/2011jc007302   AbstractWebsite

The Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax) showed significant differences in spawning habitat area, spawning habitat quality and availability of survivor habitat as the Pacific Ocean went through the La Nina state in April 2002 to a weak El Nino in April 2003. During another El Nino/Southern Oscillation transition period in 2006-2007 when the El Nino state retreated and the La Nina returned, a similar pattern in spawning habitat quality was seen. The coupling between the atmospheric forcing, the physical ocean states and the properties of the sardine egg spawning are investigated using dynamically consistent data-assimilation fits of the available physical oceanographic observations during these months. Fits were executed using the Regional Ocean Modeling System four-dimensional variational assimilation platform along with adjoint model runs using a passive tracer to deduce source waters for the areas of interest. Analysis using the data-assimilation model runs reveals that unusually strong equatorward wind-forcing drives offshore transport during the La Nina conditions, which extends the spawning habitat for sardine further offshore. A statistical model of sardine spawning habitat shows better habitat quality during the El Nino conditions, which is associated with higher egg densities and corresponded to higher daily egg production. Concentration of eggs is also increased by convergence of water. The results of the source waters analysis using the adjoint data assimilation model support the idea that offshore transport extends the spawning habitat, and show that higher levels of nutrient are brought into the spawning habitat with high concentration of sardine eggs.

Macias, D, Landry MR, Gershunov A, Miller AJ, Franks PJS.  2012.  Climatic control of upwelling variability along the western North American coast. Plos One. 7   10.1371/journal.pone.0030436   AbstractWebsite

The high biological production of the California Current System (CCS) results from the seasonal development of equatorward alongshore winds that drive coastal upwelling. While several climatic fluctuation patterns influence the dynamics and biological productivity of the CCS, including the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Pacific Decadal Oscillation index (PDO) and the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO), the mechanisms of interaction between climatic oscillations and the CCS upwelling dynamics have remained obscure. Here, we use Singular Spectral Analysis (SSA) to reveal, for the first time, low-frequency concordance between the time series of climatic indices and upwelling intensity along the coast of western North America. Based on energy distributions in annual, semiannual and low-frequency signals, we can divide the coast into three distinct regions. While the annual upwelling signal dominates the energy spectrum elsewhere, low-frequency variability is maximal in the regions south of 33 degrees N. Non-structured variability associated with storms and turbulent mixing is enhanced at northerly locations. We found that the low-frequency signal is significantly correlated with different climatic indices such as PDO, NPGO and ENSO with the correlation patterns being latitude-dependent. We also analyzed the correlations between this upwelling variability and sea surface temperature (SST) and sea level pressure (SLP) throughout the North Pacific to visualize and interpret the large-scale teleconnection dynamics in the atmosphere that drive the low-frequency coastal winds. These results provide new insights into the underlying mechanisms connecting climatic patterns with upwelling dynamics, which could enhance our prediction and forecast capabilities of the effects of future oceanographic and climatic variability in the CCS.

Subramanian, AC, Jochum M, Miller AJ, Murtugudde R, Neale RB, Waliser DE.  2011.  The Madden-Julian Oscillation in CCSM4. Journal of Climate. 24:6261-6282.   10.1175/jcli-d-11-00031.1   AbstractWebsite

This study assesses the ability of the Community Climate System Model, version 4 (CCSM4) to represent the Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO), the dominant mode of intraseasonal variability in the tropical atmosphere. The U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) MJO Working Group's prescribed diagnostic tests are used to evaluate the model's mean state, variance, and wavenumber frequency characteristics in a 20-yr simulation of the intraseasonal variability in zonal winds at 850 hPa (U850) and 200 hPa (U200), and outgoing longwave radiation (OLR). Unlike its predecessor, CCSM4 reproduces a number of aspects of MJO behavior more realistically. The CCSM4 produces coherent, broadbanded, and energetic patterns in eastward-propagating intraseasonal zonal winds and OLR in the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans that are generally consistent with MJO characteristics. Strong peaks occur in power spectra and coherence spectra with periods between 20 and 100 days and zonal wavenumbers between 1 and 3. Model MJOs, however, tend to be more broadbanded in frequency than in observations. Broad-scale patterns, as revealed in combined EOFs of U850, U200, and OLR, are remarkably consistent with observations and indicate that large-scale convergence convection coupling occurs in the simulated MJO. Relations between MJO in the model and its concurrence with other climate states are also explored. MJO activity (defined as the percentage of time the MJO index exceeds 1.5) is enhanced during El Nino events compared to La Nina events, both in the model and observations. MJO activity is increased during periods of anomalously strong negative meridional wind shear in the Asian monsoon region and also during strong negative Indian Ocean zonal mode states, in both the model and observations.

Overland, JE, Alheit J, Bakun A, Hurrell JW, Mackas DL, Miller AJ.  2010.  Climate controls on marine ecosystems and fish populations. Journal of Marine Systems. 79:305-315.   10.1016/j.jmarsys.2008.12.009   AbstractWebsite

This paper discusses large-scale climate variability for several marine ecosystems and suggests types of ecosystem responses to climate change. Our analysis of observations and model results for the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans concludes that most climate variability is accounted for by the combination of intermittent 1-2 year duration events, e.g. the cumulative effect of monthly weather anomalies or the more organized El Nino/La Nina, plus broad-band "red noise" intrinsic variability operating at decadal and longer timescales. While ocean processes such as heat storage and lags due to ocean circulation provide some multi-year memory to the climate system, basic understanding of the mechanisms resulting in observed large decadal variability is lacking and forces the adoption of a "stochastic or red noise" conceptual model of low frequency variability at the present time. Thus we conclude that decadal events with rapid shifts and major departures from climatic means will occur, but their timing cannot be forecast. The responses to climate by biological systems are diverse in character because intervening processes introduce a variety of amplifications, time lags, feedbacks, and non-linearities. Decadal ecosystem variability can involve a variety of climate to ecosystem transfer functions. These can be expected to convert red noise of the physical system to redder (lower frequency) noise of the biological response, but can also convert climatic red noise to more abrupt and discontinuous biological shifts, transient climatic disturbance to prolonged ecosystem recovery, and perhaps transient disturbance to sustained ecosystem regimes. All of these ecosystem response characteristics are likely to be active for at least some locations and time periods, leading to a mix of slow fluctuations, prolonged trends, and step-like changes in ecosystems and fish populations in response to climate change. Climate variables such as temperatures and winds can have strong teleconnections (large spatial covariability) within individual ocean basins, but between-basin teleconnections, and potential climate-driven biological synchrony over several decades, are usually much weaker and a highly intermittent function of the conditions prevailing at the time within the adjoining basins. As noted in the recent IPCC 4th Assessment Report, a warming trend of ocean surface layers and loss of regional sea ice is likely before 2030, due to addition of greenhouse gases. Combined with large continuing natural climate variability, this will stress ecosystems in ways that they have not encountered for at least 100s of years. Published by Elsevier B.V.

Kim, HJ, Miller AJ, McGowan J, Carter ML.  2009.  Coastal phytoplankton blooms in the Southern California Bight. Progress in Oceanography. 82:137-147.   10.1016/j.pocean.2009.05.002   AbstractWebsite

Surface chlorophyll (CHL) measured at the Scripps Pier in the Southern California Bight (SCB) for 18 years (1983-2000) reveals that the spring bloom occurs with irregular timing and intensity each year, unlike sea-surface temperature (SST), which is dominated by a regular seasonal cycle. In the 1990s, the spring bloom occurred earlier in the year and with larger amplitudes compared to those of the 1980s. Seasonal anomalies of the Pier CHL have no significant correlation with local winds, local SST, or upwelling index, which implies that classical coastal upwelling is not directly responsible for driving chlorophyll variations in nearshore SCB. The annual mean Pier CHL exhibits an increasing trend, whereas the Pier SST has no evident concomitant trend during the CHL observation period. The interannual variation of the Pier CHL is not correlated with tropical El Nino or La Nina conditions over the entire observing period. However, the Pier CHL was significantly influenced by El Nino/Southern Oscillation during the 1997/1998 El Nino and 1998/1999 La Nina transition period. The Pier CHL is highly coherent at long periods (3-7 years) with nearby offshore in situ surface CHL at the CalCOFI (California Cooperative Fisheries Investigations) station 93.27. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Mestas-Nunez, AM, Miller AJ.  2006.  Interdecadal variability and climate change in the eastern tropical Pacific: A review. Progress in Oceanography. 69:267-284.   10.1016/j.pocean.2006.03.011   AbstractWebsite

In this paper, we review interdecadal climatic variability in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. This variability dominates the climatic fluctuations in the North Pacific on scales between ENSO and the centennial trend and is commonly referred to as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation or PDO. We include a historical overview and a summary of observational work that describes the surface, tropospheric and subsurface signatures of this variability. Descriptions of interdecadal variability are incomplete at best, mostly due to limitations in the observational record. We emphasize that the well-known "ENSO-like" sea surface temperature (SST) pattern describing the PDO may not be an accurate representation. In the eastern tropical Pacific, the SST maxima are displaced north and south of the equator with larger amplitudes in the northern branch near the coast of North America, which has significant implications for the troposphere-driven circulations. Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain the PDO. We review these mechanisms and models, which capture our present level of understanding of the problem. We conclude by reporting there is little evidence of both multidecadal variability and the centennial trend in the eastern tropical Pacific. This paper is part of a comprehensive review of the oceanography of the eastern tropical Pacific. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Auad, G, Miller AJ, Roads JO.  2004.  Pacific Ocean forecasts. Journal of Marine Systems. 45:75-90.   10.1016/j.jmarsys.2003.11.010   AbstractWebsite

A primitive equation Pacific Ocean model forced by wind stresses and heat fluxes is used to obtain uncoupled forecasts of sea surface temperature (SST), heat storage (upper 400 m), and surface currents. The forecasts are displayed in real-time on the web and are compared against observations obtained from the Reynolds (SST) and Joint Environmental Data Analysis Center, JEDAC, (0- to 400-m temperature) data sets. The resulting forecast skill, for both total and anomalous fields, are reasonably good given the simplicity of our methodology and the fact that feedback processes between ocean and atmosphere are absent. SST forecasts are equal and even superior to anomaly persistence forecasts in some regions during some seasons. Given this skill, which depends both on model performance and on quality and sampling density of the observations, we are beginning to develop various applications for these experimental forecasts. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Auad, G, Kennett JP, Miller AJ.  2003.  North Pacific Intermediate Water response to a modern climate warming shift. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 108   10.1029/2003jc001987   AbstractWebsite

[ 1] Oceanic observations and an isopycnal ocean model simulation are used to investigate the response of North Pacific Intermediate Water ( NPIW) to atmospheric forcing associated with the well- known 1976 - 1977 climate regime shift to a warm regime. The model reproduces numerous features of NPIW including distribution, depth, temperature, and salinity. Changes in NPIW associated with the climate shift in the California coastal region were strongly influenced by an anomalous poleward flow at depth ( 300 - 1100 m). This current transports old, high salinity, low oxygen intermediate waters from the northern tropics to the midlatitudes. For depths below the mixed layer, the model reproduces observed changes in salinity, nitrates, and, to some extent, oxygen, thus suggesting that advective/ diffusive processes are dominant in determining their concentrations below 300 m, isolated from the surface effects of direct atmospheric forcing and biological processes. These changes are structurally similar to those induced by much larger, abrupt climate changes at the end of the last glacial episode.

Miller, AJ, Alexander MA, Boer GJ, Chai F, Denman K, Erickson DJ, Frouin R, Gabric AJ, Laws EA, Lewis MR, Liu ZY, Murtugudde R, Nakamoto S, Neilson DJ, Norris JR, Ohlmann JC, Perry RI, Schneider N, Shell KM, Timmermann A.  2003.  Potential feedbacks between Pacific Ocean ecosystems and interdecadal climate variations. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 84:617-633.   10.1175/bams-84-5-617   AbstractWebsite
Auad, G, Miller AJ, Roads JO, Cayan D.  2001.  Pacific Ocean wind stress and surface heat flux anomalies from NCEP reanalysis and observations: Cross-statistics and ocean model responses. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 106:22249-22265.   10.1029/2000jc000264   AbstractWebsite

Wind stresses and surface heat fluxes over the Pacific Ocean from the National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) reanalysis and the comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set (COADS) (blended with FSU tropical wind stresses) are compared over a common time interval (1958-1997) in their statistics anal in the responses that they induce in sea surface temperature (SST) and heat storage when used to force an ocean model. Wind stress anomalies from the two data sets are well correlated in the midlatitude extratropics, especially in the highly sampled North Pacific. In the tropics and subtropics, low correlations were found between the two wind stress data sets. The amplitudes of the stress variations of the two data sets are similar in midlatitudes, but in the tropics NCEP wind stresses are weaker than the LOADS/FSU stresses, especially on interannual timescales. Surface heat flux anomalies from the two data sets are well correlated on interannual and shorter timescales in the North Pacific Ocean poleward of 20 degreesN, but they are poorly correlated elsewhere and on decadal timescales. In the extratropics the amplitudes of the heat flux variations of the two data sets are comparable, but in the tropics the NCEP heat fluxes are weaker than those of CORDS. Ocean model hindcasts driven by bath data sets are also compared: The midlatitude SST hindcasts were superior when using the NCEP flux anomalies while tropical SST hindcasts were equally skillful for the two hindcasts when considering all climatic timescales. The spatial and temporal sampling rates of the LOADS observations and their consequent impacts on constraining the NCEP reanalysis appear to be the main factors controlling the results found here.

Miller, AJ, Schneider N.  2000.  Interdecadal climate regime dynamics in the North Pacific Ocean: theories, observations and ecosystem impacts. Progress in Oceanography. 47:355-379.   10.1016/s0079-6611(00)00044-6   AbstractWebsite

Basin-scale variations in oceanic physical variables are thought to organize patterns of biological response across the Pacific Ocean over decadal time scales. Different physical mechanisms can be responsible for the diverse basin-scale patterns of sea-surface temperature (SST), mixed-layer depth, thermocline depth, and horizontal currents, although they are linked in various ways. In light of various theories and observations, we interpret observed basinwide patterns of decadal-scale variations in upper-ocean temperatures. Evidence so far indicates that large-scale perturbations of the Aleutian Low generate temperature anomalies in the central and eastern North Pacific through the combined action of net surface heat Aux, turbulent mixing and Ekman advection. The surface-forced temperature anomalies in the central North Pacific subduct and propagate southwestwards in the ocean thermocline to the subtropics but apparently do not reach the equator. The large-scale Ekman pumping resulting from changes of the Aleutian Low forces western-intensified thermocline depth anomalies that are approximately consistent with Sverdrup theory. These thermocline changes are associated with SST anomalies in the Kuroshio/Oyashio Extension that are of the same sign as those in the central North Pacific, but lagged by several years. The physics of the possible feedback from the SST anomalies to the Aleutian Low, which might close a coupled ocean-atmosphere mode of decadal variability, is poorly understood and is an area of active research. The possible responses of North Pacific Ocean ecosystems to these complicated physical patterns is summarized. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Schneider, N, Miller AJ, Alexander MA, Deser C.  1999.  Subduction of decadal North Pacific temperature anomalies: Observations and dynamics. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 29:1056-1070.   10.1175/1520-0485(1999)029<1056:sodnpt>;2   AbstractWebsite

Observations of oceanic temperature in the upper 400 m reveal decadal signals that propagate in the thermocline along lines of constant potential vorticity from the ventilation region in the central North pacific to approximately 18 degrees N in the western Pacific. The propagation path and speed are well described by the geostrophic mean circulation and by a model of the ventilated thermocline. The approximate southward speed of the thermal signal of 7 mm s(-1) yields a transit time of approximately eight years. The thermal anomalies appear to be forced by perturbations of the mixed layer heat budget in the subduction region of the central North Pacific east of the date line, A warm pulse was generated in the central North Pacific by a series of mild winters from 1973 to 1976 and reached 18 degrees N around 1982. After 1978 a succession of colder winters initiated a sold anomaly in the central North Pacific that propagated along a similar path and with a similar speed as the warm anomaly, then arrived in the western tropical Pacific at 18 degrees N around 1991. Tropical Ekman pumping, rather than further propagation of the midlatitude signal, caused the subsequent spread into the equatorial western Pacific and an increase in amplitude. Historical data show that anomalous sea surface temperature in the equatorial central Pacific is correlated with tropical Ekman pumping while the correlation with thermal anomalies in the North Pacific eight years earlier is not significant. These results indicate no significant coupling in the Pacific of Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes and the equatorial region via advection of thermal anomalies along the oceanic thermocline.

Miller, AJ, Cayan DR, White WB.  1998.  A westward-intensified decadal change in the North Pacific thermocline and gyre-scale circulation. Journal of Climate. 11:3112-3127.   10.1175/1520-0442(1998)011<3112:awidci>;2   AbstractWebsite

From the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, the main thermocline of the subarctic gyre of the North Pacific Ocean shoaled with temperatures at 200-400-m depth cooling by 1 degrees-4 degrees C over the region. The gyre-scale structure of the shoaling is quasi-stationary and intensified in the western part of the basin north of 30 degrees N, suggesting concurrent changes in gyre-scale transport. A similar quasi-stationary cooling in the subtropical gyre south of 25 degrees N is also observed but lags the subpolar change by several years. To explore the physics of these changes, the authors examine an ocean model forced by observed wind stress and heat flux anomalies from 1970-88 in which they find similar changes in gyre-scale thermocline structure. The model current fields reveal that the North Pacific subpolar and subtropical gyres strengthened by roughly 10% from the 1970s to the 1980s. The bulk of the eastward Row of the model Kuroshio-Oyashio Extension returned westward via the subpolar gyre circuit, while the subtropical gyre return flow along 20 degrees N lags the subpolar changes by several years. The authors demonstrate that the model thermocline cooling and increased transport occurred in response to decadal-scale changes in basin-scale wind stress curl with the quasi-stationary oceanic response being in a time-dependent quasi-Sverdrup balance over much of the basin east of the date line. This wind stress curl driven response is quasi-stationary but occurs in conjunction with a propagating temperature anomaly associated with subduction in the central North Pacific that links the subpolar and subtropical gyre stationary changes and gives the appearance of circumgyre propagation. Different physics evidently controls the decadal subsurface temperature signal in different parts of the extratropical North Pacific.

Miller, AJ, White WB, Cayan DR.  1997.  North Pacific thermocline variations on ENSO timescales. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 27:2023-2039.   10.1175/1520-0485(1997)027<2023:nptvoe>;2   AbstractWebsite

The North Pacific thermocline (250 to 400 m) is studied using XBT observations acquired during the 1970s and 1980s. Interannual variations (3-5 yr timescales) in thermocline temperature, with O(0.1 degrees C) amplitude at 400 m, are found to exhibit westward propagation throughout the extratropical North Pacific up to 45 degrees N. Southward of 30 degrees N, the features propagate intact across the basin from the eastern boundary to the western boundary. Northward of 30 degrees N, the features can be observed to propagate only as far as the date line. The observed midlatitude thermocline anomalies are often related to tropical ENSO events in that they occur most strongly after the development of tropical El Nino or La Nina conditions and propagate westward from near the eastern boundary in the midlatitudes. But it is found that the observed midlatitude thermocline anomalies have larger phase speeds than theoretically predicted free baroclinic Rossby waves. Also, the observed anomalies have larger wavelength and faster propagation speeds than baroclinic Rossby waves that radiate from coastal Kelvin-like waves near the eastern boundary in well-known high-resolution models. Large-scale thermocline fluctuations that have spatial scale and phase speeds similar to the observations are also found in a coarse-resolution model of the Pacific Ocean forced by observed wind and heat Aux anomalies over the 1970-88 period. In the midlatitudes, north of 30 degrees N, large-scale Ekman pumping by interannual wind stress curl variations provides a significant driving mechanism for the modeled large-scale thermocline anomalies. The modeled ocean response is a combination of the static thermocline response to large-scale Ekman pumping plus a train of westward traveling Rossby waves, which accounts for part of the propagating temperature fluctuations. A tropical, remotely forced component is prominant near the eastern boundary, but this only contributes weakly in the model open ocean.

Miller, AJ.  1996.  Recent advances in California Current modeling: Decadal and interannual thermocline variations. California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations Reports. 37:69-79. AbstractWebsite

Some recent advances in large-scale modeling of the California Current and its interaction with basin-scale circulation and forcing are summarized. The discussion concentrates on a decadal-scale change and interannual-scale variations identified in the thermocline off the California Coast. The western-intensified decadal-scale change is part of a basinwide change in the North Pacific thermocline from the early 1970s to the early 1980s, which has been observed and modeled. The decadal change is driven by a basin-scale change in wind stress curl (Ekman pumping) and is associated with a deepening of the thermocline off California but no significant change in the strength of the California Current. Interannual variations of the thermocline off the California Coast, which tend to be associated with ENSO, have also been observed and modeled. High-resolution models often exhibit a coastal-trapped Kelvin-like wave arriving from the equatorial zone, but even a coarse-resolution model can capture aspects of the midlatitude wind-forced thermocline signals that propagate westward on ENSO time scales.

Miller, AJ, Cayan DR, Barnett TP, Graham NE, Oberhuber JM.  1994.  Interdecadal variability of the Pacific Ocean: model response to observed heat flux and wind stress anomalies. Climate Dynamics. 9:287-302.   10.1007/bf00204744   AbstractWebsite

Variability of the Pacific Ocean is examined in numerical simulations with an ocean general circulation model forced by observed anomalies of surface heat flux, wind stress and turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) over the period 1970-88. The model captures the 1976-77 winter time climate shift in sea surface temperature, as well as its monthly, seasonal and longer term variability as evidenced in regional time series and empirical orthogonal function analyses. Examination of the surface mixed-layer heat budget reveals that the 1976-77 shift was caused by a unique concurrance of sustained heat flux input anomalies and very strong horizontal advection anomalies during a multi-month period preceding the shift in both the central Pacific region (where cooling occurred) and the California coastal region (where warming occurred). In the central Pacific, the warm conditions preceding and the cold conditions following the shift tend to be maintained by anomalous vertical mixing due to increases in the atmospheric momentum flux (TKE input) into the mixed layer (which deepens in the model after the shift) from the early 1970s to the late 1970s and 1980s. Since the ocean model does not contain feedback to the atmosphere and it succeeds in capturing the major features of the 1976-77 shift, it appears that the midlatitude part of the shift was driven by the atmosphere, although effects of midlatitude ocean-atmosphere feedback are still possible. The surface mixed-layer heat budget also reveals that, in the central Pacific, the effects of heat flux input and vertical mixing anomalies are comparable in amplitude while horizontal advection anomalies are roughly half that size. In the California coastal region, in contrast, where wind variability is much weaker than in the central Pacific, horizontal advection and vertical mixing effects on the mixed-layer heat budget are only one-quarter the size of typical heat flux input anomalies.