Journal of Oceanography

, Volume 60, Issue 1, pp 163-188

First online:

Decadal-Scale Climate and Ecosystem Interactions in the North Pacific Ocean

  • Arthur J. MillerAffiliated withScripps Institution of Oceanography
  • , Fei ChaiAffiliated withSchool of Marine Sciences, University of Maine
  • , Sanae ChibaAffiliated withFrontier Research System for Global Change, Japan Marine Science & Technology Center
  • , John R. MoisanAffiliated withNASA/GSFC Wallops Flight Facility
  • , Douglas J. NeilsonAffiliated withScripps Institution of Oceanography

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Decadal-scale climate variations in the Pacific Ocean wield a strong influence on the oceanic ecosystem. Two dominant patterns of large-scale SST variability and one dominant pattern of large-scale thermocline variability can be explained as a forced oceanic response to large-scale changes in the Aleutian Low. The physical mechanisms that generate this decadal variability are still unclear, but stochastic atmospheric forcing of the ocean combined with atmospheric teleconnections from the tropics to the midlatitudes and some weak ocean-atmosphere feedbacks processes are the most plausible explanation. These observed physical variations organize the oceanic ecosystem response through large-scale basin-wide forcings that exert distinct local influences through many different processes. The regional ecosystem impacts of these local processes are discussed for the Tropical Pacific, the Central North Pacific, the Kuroshio-Oyashio Extension, the Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, and the California Current System regions in the context of the observed decadal climate variability. The physical ocean-atmosphere system and the oceanic ecosystem interact through many different processes. These include physical forcing of the ecosystem by changes in solar fluxes, ocean temperature, horizontal current advection, vertical mixing and upwelling, freshwater fluxes, and sea ice. These also include oceanic ecosystem forcing of the climate by attenuation of solar energy by phytoplankton absorption and atmospheric aerosol production by phytoplankton DMS fluxes. A more complete understanding of the complicated feedback processes controlling decadal variability, ocean ecosystems, and biogeochemical cycling requires a concerted and organized long-term observational and modeling effort.

Pacific Ocean decadal variability ecosystems climate forcing feedbacks