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Increased multidecadal variability of the North Atlantic Oscillation since 1781

Nature Geoscience volume 1, pages 844848 (2008) | Download Citation

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Abstract

The North Atlantic Oscillation is a meridional oscillation of atmospheric mass measured between Iceland and the Açores1,2, which drives winter climate variability in eastern North America and Europe. A prolonged period of the positive phase during the 1990s led to the suggestion that anthropogenic warming was affecting the behaviour of the North Atlantic Oscillation3,4. However, instrumental records1,5 are too short to compare observations during periods of extended warm and cold hemispheric temperatures, and existing palaeoclimate reconstructions6,7 primarily capture terrestrial variability. Here we present a record of Sr/Ca, a sea surface temperature proxy, from a Bermuda coral from 1781 to 1999. We use this monthly resolved record to reconstruct past variability of the North Atlantic Oscillation at multiple frequencies. Our record shows enhanced multidecadal scale variability during the late twentieth century compared with the end of the Little Ice Age (1800–1850). We suggest that variability within the North Atlantic Oscillation is linked to the mean temperature of the Northern Hemisphere, which must be considered in any long-term predictions.

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Acknowledgements

We are indebted to A. Cohen for providing the coral samples and to M. McCartney. This analysis benefited greatly from the comments of P. Huybers and T. Farrar. Thanks to E. Boyle, A. Czaja, A. Solow, D. Ostermann, S. Smith, G. Webster, S. du Putron, G. Piniak, J. Pitt, D. Schrag, C. Bertrand, P. Landry, and D. Glover for informative conversations, technical and logistical help. A Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution OCCI Fellowship, and grants from NSF (OCE-0402728) and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution supported this work.

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  1. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA

    • Nathalie F. Goodkin
    • , Konrad A. Hughen
    • , Scott C. Doney
    •  & William B. Curry
  2. University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong SAR

    • Nathalie F. Goodkin

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Correspondence to Nathalie F. Goodkin.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo352

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