Climate Dynamics

, Volume 39, Issue 12, pp 2917–2936 | Cite as

The response of the North Pacific Decadal Variability to strong tropical volcanic eruptions

  • Tao Wang
  • Odd Helge Otterå
  • Yongqi Gao
  • Huijun Wang


In this study, the effects of volcanic forcing on North Pacific climate variability, on interannual to decadal time scales, are examined using climate model simulations covering the last 600 years. The model used is the Bergen Climate Model, a fully coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation model. It is found that natural external forcings, such as tropical strong volcanic eruptions (SVEs) and variations in total solar irradiance, play an important role in regulating North Pacific Decadal Variability (NPDV). In response to tropical SVEs the lower stratospheric pole–to–equator temperature gradient is enhanced. The North polar vortex is strengthened, which forces a significant positive Arctic Oscillation. At the same time, dipole zonal wind anomalies associated with strong polar vortex propagate downward from the lower stratosphere. Through positive feedbacks in the troposphere, the surface westerly winds across the central North Pacific are significantly weakened, and positive sea level pressure anomalies are formed in the North Pacific. This anomalous surface circulation results in changes in the net heat fluxes and the oceanic advection across the North Pacific. As a result of this, warm water converges in the subtropical western North Pacific, where the surface waters in addition are heated by significantly reduced latent and sensible heat fluxes from the ocean. In the eastern and high–latitude North Pacific the ocean loses more heat, and large–scale decreases in sea surface temperatures are found. The overall response of this chain of events is that the North Pacific enters a negative phase of the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO), and this negative phase of the PDO is maintained for several years. It is thus concluded that the volcanic forcing plays a key role in the phasing of the PDO. The model results furthermore highlight the important role of troposphere–stratosphere coupling, tropical–extratropical teleconnections and extratropical ocean–atmosphere interactions for describing NPDV.


Strong tropical volcanic eruptions North polar vortex North Pacific Decadal Variability Coupled model Ocean–atmosphere interaction Troposphere–stratosphere coupling 



We thank Dr. Stefan Soblowski, Dr. Jianqi Sun and Prof. Shuanglin Li for useful comments to the manuscript. Comments and helpful suggestions from the editor and two anonymous reviewers are also greatly appreciated. This work was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (Grant No. 2010CB951901), the CAS Strategic Priority Research Program (Grant No. XDA05110203) and the Research Council of Norway through the DecCen project (Exploring Decadal to Century Scale Variability and Changes in the East Asian Climate during the last Millennium). The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement No. 243908, “Past4Future. Climate change–Learning from the past climate”.

Supplementary material

382_2012_1373_MOESM1_ESM.doc (2.6 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 2633 kb)


  1. Adams JB, Mann ME, Ammann CM (2003) Proxy evidence for an El Niño–like response to volcanic forcing. Nature 426:274–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexander MA, Deser C, Timlin MS (1999) The re–emergence of SST anomalies in the North Pacific Oecan. J Climate 12:2419–2431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alexander MA, Bladé I, Newman M, Lanzante JR, Lau NC, Scott JD (2002) The atmospheric bridge: the influence of ENSO teleconnections on air–sea interaction over the global oceans. J Climate 15:2205–2231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barlow M, Nigam S, Berbery EH (2001) ENSO, Pacific decadal variability, and U.S. summertime precipitation, drought, and stream flow. J Climate 14:2105–2128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bleck R, Smith LT (1990) A wind–driven isopycnic coordinate model of the North and Equatorial Atlantic Ocean. 1. Model development and supporting experiments. J Geophys Res 95:3273–3285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bleck R, Rooth C, Hu D, Smith LT (1992) Salinity–driven thermocline transients in a wind–and thermohaline–forced isopycnic coordinate model of the North Atlantic. J Phys Oceanogr 22:1486–1505CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boville BA (1983) The influence of the polar night jet on the tropospheric circulation in a GCM. J Atmos Sci 41:1132–1142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brasseur G, Granier C (1992) Mount Pinatubo aerosols, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone depletion. Science 257:1239–1242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Capotondi A, Wittenberg A, Masina S (2006) Spatial and temporal structure of tropical Pacific interannual variability in 20th century coupled simulations. Ocean Model 15:274–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Christiansen B (2008) Volcanic eruptions, large–scale modes in the Northern Hemisphere, and El Niño–Southern Oscillation. J Climate 21:910–922CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Church JA, White NJ, Arblaster JM (2005) Significant decadal–scale impact of volcanic eruptions on sea level and ocean heat content. Nature 438:74–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crowley TJ, Baum SK, Kim K–Y, Hegerl GC, Hyde WT (2003) Modeling ocean heat content changes during the last millennium. Geophys Res Lett 30. doi: 10.1029/2003GL017801
  13. D’Orgeville M, Peltier WR (2007) On the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation: might they be related? Geophys Res Lett 34. doi: 10.1029/2007GL031584
  14. D’Orgeville M, Peltier WR (2009) Implications of both statistical equilibrium and global warming simulations with CCSM3. Part I: on the decadal variability in the North Pacific basin. J Climate 22:5277–5296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Déqué M, Dreveton C, Braun A, Cariolle D (1994) The ARPEGE/IFS atmosphere model: a contribution to the French community climate modeling. Climate Dyn 10:249–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Deser C, Phillips A (2006) Simulation of the 1976/77 climate transition over the North Pacific: sensitivity to tropical forcing. J Climate 19:6170–6180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Deser C, Phillips AS, Hurrell JW (2004) Pacific interdecadal climate variability: linkages between the tropics and the North Pacific during boreal winter since 1900. J Climate 17:3109–3124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dettinger MD, Battisti DS, Garreaud RD, McCabe GJ, Bitz CM (2001) Interhemispheric effects of interannual and decadal ENSO–like climate variations on the Americas. In: Markgraf V (ed) Present and past interhemispheric climate linkages in the Americas and their societal effects. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1–16Google Scholar
  19. Dommenget D, Latif M (2008) Generation of hyper climate modes, Geophys Res Lett 35. doi: 10.1029/2007GL031087
  20. Furevik T, Bentsen M, Drange H, Kindem IKT, KvamstØ NG, Sorteberg A (2003) Description and validation of the Bergen climate model: ARPEGE coupled with MICOM. Clim Dyn 21:27–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Furtado JC, Lorenzo ED, Schneider N, Bond NA (2011) North Pacific decadal variability and climate change in the IPCC AR4 models. J Climate 24:3049–3067CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gillett NP (2005) Climate modelling: Northern Hemisphere circulation. Nature 437:496CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gillett NP, Weaver AJ, Zwiers FW, Wehner MF (2004) Detection of volcanic influence on global precipitation. Geophys Res Lett 31. doi: 10.1029/2004GL02004
  24. Graf H-F, Kirchner I, Robock A, Schult I (1993) Pinatubo eruption winter climate effects: model versus observations. Climate Dyn 9:81–93Google Scholar
  25. Graf H-F, Perlwitz J, Kirchner I (1994) Northern hemisphere tropospheric mid–latitude circulation after violent volcanic eruptions. Contrib Atmos Phys 67:3–13Google Scholar
  26. Grissino–Mayer HD (1995) Tree–ring reconstructions of climate and fire history at EL Malpais National Monument, New Mexico. PhD dissertation, The University of ArizonaGoogle Scholar
  27. Gu D, Philander SGH (1997) Interdecadal climate fluctuations that depend on exchanges between the tropics and extratropics. Science 275:805–807CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hansen JE, Nazarenko L, Ruedy R, Sato M, Willis J, Genio AD, Koch D, Lacis A, Lo K, Menon S, Novakov T, Perlwitz J, Russell G, Schmidt GA, Tausnev N (2005) Earth’s energy imbalance; confirmation and implications. Science 308:1431–1435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hasselmann K (1976) Stochastic climate models I: theory. Tellus 28:473–485CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hurrell JW (1995) Decadal trends in the North Atlantic Oscillation: regional temperatures and precipitation. Science 269:676–679CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kalnay E, Kanamitsu M, Kistler R, Collins W, Deaven D, Gandin L, Iredell M, Saha S, White G, Woollen J, Zhu Y, Leetmaa A, Reynolds R, Chelliah M, Ebisuzaki W, Higgins W, Janowiak J, Mo KC, Ropelewski C, Wang J, Jenne R, Joseph D (1996) The NCEP/NCAR 40–year reanalysis project. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 77:437–472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kodera K (1994) Influence of volcanic eruptions on the troposphere through stratospheric dynamical processes in the northern hemisphere winter. J Geophys Res 99:1273–1282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kodera K, Chiba M, Yamazaki K, Shibata K (1991) A possible influence of the polar night stratospheric jet on the subtropical tropospheric jet. J Meteorol Soc Jpn 69:715–721Google Scholar
  34. Kodera K, Kuroda Y, Pawson S (2000) Stratospheric sudden warmings and slowly propagating zonal–mean zonal wind anomalies. J Geophys Res 105:12351–12359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Krakauer NY, Randerson JT (2003) Do volcanic eruptions enhance or diminish net primary production? Evidence from tree rings. Global Biogeoch Cycles 17:1118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kuroda Y, Kodera K (1999) Role of planetary waves in the stratosphere–troposphere coupled variability in the Northern Hemisphere winter. Geophys Res Lett 26:2375–2378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Latif M (1998) Dynamics of interdecadal variability in coupled ocean–atmosphere models. J Climate 11:602–624CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Latif M (2006) On North Pacific multidecadal climate variability. J Climate 19:2906–2915CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Latif M, Barnett TP (1994) Causes of decadal climate variability over the North Pacific and North America. Science 266:634–637CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Latif M, Barnett TP (1996) Decadal climate variability over the North Pacific and North America: dynamics and predictability. J Climate 9:2407–2423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lau NC, Nath MJ (1996) The role of the “atmospheric bridge” in linking tropical Pacific ENSO events to extratropical SST anomalies. J Climate 9:2036–2057CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Liu Z, Alexander M (2007) Atmospheric bridge, oceanic tunnel, and global climatic teleconnections. Rev Geophys 45. doi: 10.1029/2005RG000172
  43. Liu Z, Yang H (2003) Extratropical control of tropical climate, the atmospheric bridge and oceanic tunnel. Geophys Res Lett 30. doi:  10.1029/2002GL016492
  44. Liu Z, Wu L, Galimore R, Jacob R (2002) Search for the origins of Pacific decadal climate variability. Geophys Res Lett 29. doi: 10.1029/2001GL013735
  45. Mann ME, Zhang ZH, Rutherford S, Bradley RS, Hughes MK, Shindell D, Ammann C, Faluvegi G, Ni F (2009) Global signatures and dnamical origins of the little ice age and medieval climate anomaly. Science 326:1256–1260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mantua NJ, Hare SR (2002) The Pacific decadal oscillation. J Oceanogr 58:35–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mantua NJ, Hare SR, Zhang Y, Wallace JM, Francis RC (1997) A Pacific interdecadal climate oscillation with impacts on salmon production. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 78:1069–1079CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mass CF, Portman DA (1989) Major volcanic eruptions and climate: a critical evaluation. J Climate 2:566–593CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Miller AJ, Schneider N (2000) Interdecadal climate regime dynamics in the North Pacific Ocean: theories, observations and ecosystem impacts. Prog Oceanogr 47:355–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Miller AJ, Cayan DR, Barnett TP, Graham NE, Oberhuber JM (1994) Interdecadal variability of the Pacific Ocean: model response to observed heat flux and wind stress anomalies. Climate Dyn 9:287–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Osborn TJ (2004) Simulating the winter North Atlantic Oscillation: the roles of internal variability and greenhouse gas forcing. Climate Dyn 22:605–623CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Ostermeier GM, Wallace JM (2003) Trends in the North Atlantic Oscillation–Northern hemisphere annular mode during the twentieth century. J Climate 16:336–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Otterå OH (2008) Simulating the effects of the 1991 Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption using the ARPEGE atmosphere general circulation model. Adv Atmos Sci 25:213–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Otterå OH, Bentsen M, Bethke I, Kvamstø NG (2009) Simulated pre–industrial climate in Bergen Climate Model (version 2): model description and large–scale circulation features. Geosci Model Dev 2:197–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Otterå OH, Bentsen M, Drange H, Suo LL (2010) External forcing as a metronome for Atlantic multidecadal variability. Nat Geosci 3:688–694CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Peng YB, Shen C, Wang WC, Xu Y (2010) Response of summer precipitation over Eastern China to large volcanic eruptions. J Climate 23:818–824CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Perlwitz J, Graf H-F, Voss R (2000) The leading variability mode of the coupled troposphere–stratosphere winter circulation in different climate regimes. J Geophys Res 105:6915–6926CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Rayner NA, Parker DE, Horton EB, Folland CK, Alexander LV, Rowell DP, Kent EC, Kaplan A (2003) Global analyses of sea surface temperature, sea ice, and night marine air temperature since the late nineteenth century. J Geophys Res 108. doi: 10.1029/2002JD002670
  59. Robock A (1983) Ice and snow feedbacks and the latitudinal and seasonal distribution of climate sensitivity. J Atmos Sci 40:986–997CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Robock A (2000) Volcanic eruptions and climate. Rev Geophys 38:191–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Robock A, Mao J (1995) The volcanic signal in surface temperature observations. J Climate 8:1086–1103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Salas–Melia D (2002) A global coupled sea ice–ocean model. Ocean Model 4:137–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Scaife A, Knight J, Vallis G, Folland C (2005) A stratospheric influence on the winter NAO and North Atlantic surface climate. Geophys Res Lett 32:L18715. doi: 10.1029/2005GL023226 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Schneider N, Cornuelle BD (2005) The forcing of the Pacific decadal oscillation. J Climate 18:4355–4373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Schoennagel T, Veblen TT, Romme WH, Sibold JS, Cook ER (2005) ENSO and PDO variability affect drought induced fire occurrence in Rocky mountain subalpine forests. Ecol Appl 15:2000–2014CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Shen C, Wang WC, Hao Z, Gong W (2008) Characteristics of anomalous precipitation events over eastern China during the past five centuries. Climate Dyn 31:463–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Stenchikov G, Robock A, Ramaswamy V, Schwarzkopf MD, Hamilton K, Ramachandran S (2002) Arctic Oscillation response to the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption: effects of volcanic aerosols and ozone depletion. J Geophys Res 107:D24. doi: 10.1029/2002JD002090 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Stenchikov G, Hamilton K, Stouffer RJ, Robock A, Ramaswamy V, Santer B, Graf HF (2006) Arctic Oscillation response to volcanic eruptions in the IPCC AR4 climate models. J Geophys Res 111:D07107. doi: 10.1029/2005JD006286 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Stenchikov G, Delworth TL, Ramaswamy V, Stouffer RJ, Wittenberg A, Zeng F (2009) Volcanic signals in oceans. J Geophys Res 114. doi: 10.1029/2008JD011673
  70. Sugimoto S, Hanawa K (2009) Decadal and interdecadal variations of the Aleutian Low activity and their relation to upper oceanic variations over the North Pacific. J Meteorol Soc Jpn 87:601–614CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Sun JQ, Wang HJ (2006) The relationship between Arctic Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Chin Sci Bull 51:75–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Swingedouw D, Terray L, Cassou C, Voldoire A, Salas–Mélia D, Servonnat J (2011) Natural forcing of climate during the last millennium: fingerprint of solar variability. Climate Dyn 36:1349–1364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Thompson DWJ, Wallace JM (1998) The Arctic Oscillation signature in the wintertime geopotential height and temperature fields. Geophys Res Lett 25:1297–1300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Thompson DWJ, Wallace JM (2000) Annular modes in the extratropical circulation. Part II: trends. J Climate 13:1018–1036CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Trenberth KE, Dai T (2007) Effects of Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption on the hydrological cycle as an analog of geoengineering. Geophys Res Lett 34:L15702CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Trenberth KE, Hurrell JW (1994) Decadal atmosphere–ocean variations in the Pacific. Climate Dyn 9:303–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Wang HJ (2002) The instability of the East Asian summer monsoon–ENSO relations. Adv Atmos Sci 19:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Wang HJ, Sun JQ, Fan K (2007) Relationships between the North Pacific Oscillation and the typhoon/hurricane frequencies. Science in China Series D 50:1409–1416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. White WB, Cayan DR (1998) Quasi–periodicity and global symmetries in interdecadal upper ocean temperature variability. J Geophys Res 103:21335–21354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Wu L, Liu Z, Gallimore R, Jacob R, Lee D, Zhong Y (2003) Pacific decadal variability: the tropical Pacific mode and the North Pacific mode. J Climate 16:1101–1120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Wu L, Lee D, Liu Z (2005) The 1976/77 North Pacific climate regime shift: the role of subtropical ocean adjustment and coupled ocean–atmosphere feedbacks. J Climate 18:5125–5140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Yang H, Liu Z (2005) Tropical–extratropical climate interaction as revealed in idealized coupled climate model experiments. Climate Dyn 24:863–879CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Yang XQ, Zhu YM, Xie Q, Ren XJ, Xu GY (2004) Advances in studies of Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Chin J Atmos Sci 28:979–992 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  84. Yeh S-W, Kang YJ, Noh Y, Miller AJ (2011) The North Pacific climate transitions of the winters of 1976/77 and 1988/89. J Climate 24:1170–1183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Yoon J, Yeh S-W (2010) Influence of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation on the relationship between El Niño and the Northeast Asian Summer Monsoon. J Climate 23:4525–4537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Zanchettin D, Rubino A, Jungclaus JH (2010) Intermittent multidecadal–to–centennial fluctuations dominate global temperature evolution over the last millennium. Geophy Res Lett 37: L14702. doi: 10.1029/2010GL043717
  87. Zanchettin D, Timmreck C, Graf HF, Rubino A, Lorenz S, Lohmann K, Krüger K, Jungclaus JH (2011) Bi–decadal variability excited in the coupled ocean–atmosphere system by strong tropical volcanic eruptions. Clim Dyn. doi: 10.1007/s00382-011-1167-1
  88. Zhang R, Delworth TL (2007) Impact of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation on North Pacific climate variability. Geophys Res Lett 34. doi: 10.1029/2007GL031601
  89. Zhang Y, Wallace JM, Battisti DS (1997) ENSO–like interdecadal variability: 1900–93. J Climate 10:1004–1020CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Zhong Y, Liu Z (2009) On the Mechanism of Pacific Multidecadal Climate Variability in CCSM3: The Role of the Subpolar North Pacific Ocean. J Phys Oceanogr 39:2052–2076CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Zhong Y, Liu Z, Jacob R (2008) Origin of Pacific Multidecadal variability in community climate system model, Version 3 (CCSM3): a combined statistical and dynamical assessment. J Climate 21:114–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Zhong Y, Miller GH, Otto–Bliesner BL, Holland MM, Bailey DA, Schneider DP, Geirsdottir A (2011) Centennial–scale climate change from decadally–paced explosive volcanism: a coupled sea ice–ocean mechanism. Clim Dyn 37:2373–2387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Zhou BT, Wang HJ (2006) Interannual and interdecadal variations of the Hadley circulation and its connection with tropical sea surface temperature. Chinese J Geophys 49:1271–1278 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  94. Zhou BT, Wang HJ (2008) Relationship between Hadley circulation and sea ice extent in the Bering Sea. Chin Sci Bull 53:444–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Zhou BT, Wang HJ, Cui X (2008) Significant relationship between Hadley circulation and North Pacific Oscillation. Chinese J Geophys 51:999–1006 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  96. Zhou BT, Zhao P, Cui X (2010) Linkage between the Asian-Pacific oscillation and the sea surface temperature in the North Pacific. Chin Sci Bull 55:1193–1198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Zhu YL, Wang HJ, Zhou W, Ma JH (2010) Recent changes in the summer precipitation pattern in East China and the background circulation. Climate Dyn 36:1463–1473CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tao Wang
    • 1
  • Odd Helge Otterå
    • 2
    • 3
  • Yongqi Gao
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Huijun Wang
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Nansen-Zhu International Research Center, Institute of Atmospheric PhysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Uni Bjerknes Centre, Uni ResearchBergenNorway
  3. 3.Bjerknes Center for Climate ResearchBergenNorway
  4. 4.Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing CenterBergenNorway
  5. 5.Climate Change Research Center, Institute of Atmospheric PhysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations