Article

Multi-year persistence of the 2014/15 North Pacific marine heatwave

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Abstract

Between the winters of 2013/14 and 2014/15 during the strong North American drought, the northeast Pacific experienced the largest marine heatwave ever recorded. Here we combine observations with an ensemble of climate model simulations to show that teleconnections between the North Pacific and the weak 2014/2015 El Niño linked the atmospheric forcing patterns of this event. These teleconnection dynamics from the extratropics to the tropics during winter 2013/14, and then back to the extratropics during winter 2014/15, are a key source of multi-year persistence of the North Pacific atmosphere. The corresponding ocean anomalies map onto known patterns of North Pacific decadal variability, specifically the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO) in 2014 and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) in 2015. A large ensemble of climate model simulations predicts that the winter variance of the NPGO- and PDO-like patterns increases under greenhouse forcing, consistent with other studies suggesting an increase in the atmospheric extremes that lead to drought over North America.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the support of the NSF-OCE 1356924, NSF-OCE 1419292 and NSF CCE-LTER. We also thank N. Schneider for feedback and discussion provided.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332, USA

    • Emanuele Di Lorenzo
  2. Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, 110 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz, California 95060, USA

    • Nathan Mantua

Authors

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Contributions

E.D.L. and N.M. envisioned and wrote the paper. E.D.L. designed and executed the analyses.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Emanuele Di Lorenzo.

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