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


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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Figure 1: Evolution of seasonal NOAA SSTa and NCEP SLPa during 2014 and 2015.
Figure 2: Temporal variability of GOA and ARC patterns.
Figure 3: Lead and lag relationship between SSTa indices for the GOA and ARC patterns.
Figure 4: Climate hypothesis to explain the generation, evolution and persistence of the North Pacific warm anomaly between the winters of 2013/14 and 2014/15.
Figure 5: Fraction of ARC SSTa driven by tropical teleconnections.
Figure 6: Changes in the variance of North Pacific climate patterns associated with the northeast Pacific marine heatwaves.

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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.

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

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Emanuele Di Lorenzo.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Di Lorenzo, E., Mantua, N. Multi-year persistence of the 2014/15 North Pacific marine heatwave. Nature Clim Change 6, 1042–1047 (2016).

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