, Volume 36, Issue 7-8, pp 1577-1591
Date: 23 Jan 2010

Critical influence of the pattern of Tropical Ocean warming on remote climate trends

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Abstract

Evidence is presented that the recent trend patterns of surface air temperature and precipitation over the land masses surrounding the North Atlantic Ocean (North America, Greenland, Europe, and North Africa) have been strongly influenced by the warming pattern of the tropical oceans. The current generation of atmosphere–ocean coupled climate models with prescribed radiative forcing changes generally do not capture these regional trend patterns. On the other hand, even uncoupled atmospheric models without the prescribed radiative forcing changes, but with the observed oceanic warming specified only in the tropics, are more successful in this regard. The tropical oceanic warming pattern is poorly represented in the coupled simulations. Our analysis points to model error rather than unpredictable climate noise as a major cause of this discrepancy with respect to the observed trends. This tropical error needs to be reduced to increase confidence in regional climate change projections around the globe, and to formulate better societal responses to projected changes in high-impact phenomena such as droughts and wet spells.