, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 35-44

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation

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Abstract

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) has been described by some as a long-lived El Niño-like pattern of Pacific climate variability, and by others as a blend of two sometimes independent modes having distinct spatial and temporal characteristics of North Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) variability. A growing body of evidence highlights a strong tendency for PDO impacts in the Southern Hemisphere, with important surface climate anomalies over the mid-latitude South Pacific Ocean, Australia and South America. Several independent studies find evidence for just two full PDO cycles in the past century: “cool” PDO regimes prevailed from 1890–1924 and again from 1947–1976, while “warm” PDO regimes dominated from 1925–1946 and from 1977 through (at least) the mid-1990's. Interdecadal changes in Pacific climate have widespread impacts on natural systems, including water resources in the Americas and many marine fisheries in the North Pacific. Tree-ring and Pacific coral based climate reconstructions suggest that PDO variations—at a range of varying time scales—can be traced back to at least 1600, although there are important differences between different proxy reconstructions. While 20th Century PDO fluctuations were most energetic in two general periodicities—one from 15-to-25 years, and the other from 50-to-70 years—the mechanisms causing PDO variability remain unclear. To date, there is little in the way of observational evidence to support a mid-latitude coupled air-sea interaction for PDO, though there are several well-understood mechanisms that promote multi-year persistence in North Pacific upper ocean temperature anomalies.

This revised version was published online in August 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.