Stochastic forcing of north tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures by the NAO

  • 3 March 2014

The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is a quickly changing, rapidly decorrelating process that strongly affects the climate over the Atlantic and the surrounding continents.

Although the NAO itself is basically unpredictable on seasonal timescales using statistical methods, NAO forcing can significantly affect sea surface temperatures (SSTs) evolving on those timescales.

In an article to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers funded by NOAA's ESS program have shown that the NAO-generated forcing of SST during boreal winter and spring is responsible for more than half the statistically unpredictable component of SST in the main development region for Atlantic hurricanes during the subsequent summer and fall. 

Thus, seasonal forecasts of SST in that region might be improved if fast nonlinear NAO dynamics resolved by General Circulation Models could be predicted accurately enough to account for some of what seasonally averaged SSTs “see” as stochastic forcing.

This research was funded by CPO’s Climate Variability and Predictability program.

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