Climatic Change

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 35–66

Interannual and interdecadal variability in United States surface-air temperatures, 1910-87

  • Michael D. Dettinger
  • Michael Ghil
  • Christian L. Keppenne

DOI: 10.1007/BF01092980

Cite this article as:
Dettinger, M.D., Ghil, M. & Keppenne, C.L. Climatic Change (1995) 31: 35. doi:10.1007/BF01092980


Monthly mean surface-air temperatures at 870 sites in the contiguous United States were analyzed for interannual and interdecadal variability over the time interval 1910-87. The temperatures were analyzed spatially by empirical-orthogonal-function analysis and temporally by singularspectrum analysis (SSA). The dominant modes of spatio-temporal variability are trends and nonperiodic variations with time scales longer than 15 years, decadal-scale oscillations with periods of roughly 7 and 10 years, and interannual oscillations of 2.2 and 3.3 years. Together, these modes contribute about 18% of the slower-than-annual United States temperature variance. Two leading components roughly capture the mean hemispheric temperature trend and represent a long-term warming, largest in the southwest, accompanied by cooling of the domain's southeastern quadrant. The extremes of the 2.2-year interannual oscillation characterize temperature differences between the Northeastern and Southwestern States, whereas the 3.3-year cycle is present mostly in the Western States. The 7- to 10-year oscillations are much less regular and persistent than the interannual oscillations and characterize temperature differences between the western and interior sectors of the United States. These continental- or regional-scale temperature variations may be related to climatic variations with similar periodicities, either global or centered in other regions; such variations include quasi-biennial oscillations over the tropical Pacific or North Atlantic and quasi-triennial oscillations of North Pacific sea-surface temperatures.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael D. Dettinger
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael Ghil
    • 3
  • Christian L. Keppenne
    • 4
  1. 1.U.S. Geological SurveySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Atmospheric Sciences and Institute of Geophysics and Planetary PhysicsUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Department of Atmospheric Sciences and Institute of Geophysics and Planetary PhysicsUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of Technology/NASAPasadenaUSA

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