Climate Dynamics

, Volume 41, Issue 3–4, pp 775–785 | Cite as

Predictability of the mid-latitude Atlantic meridional overturning circulation in a multi-model system

  • Holger PohlmannEmail author
  • Doug M. Smith
  • Magdalena A. Balmaseda
  • Noel S. Keenlyside
  • Simona Masina
  • Daniela Matei
  • Wolfgang A. Müller
  • Philippe Rogel


Assessing the skill of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) in decadal hindcasts (i.e. retrospective predictions) is hampered by a lack of observations for verification. Models are therefore needed to reconstruct the historical AMOC variability. Here we show that ten recent oceanic syntheses provide a common signal of AMOC variability at 45°N, with an increase from the 1960s to the mid-1990s and a decrease thereafter although they disagree on the exact magnitude. This signal correlates with observed key processes such as the North Atlantic Oscillation, sub-polar gyre strength, Atlantic sea surface temperature dipole, and Labrador Sea convection that are thought to be related to the AMOC. Furthermore, we find potential predictability of the mid-latitude AMOC for the first 3–6 year means when we validate decadal hindcasts for the past 50 years against the multi-model signal. However, this predictability is not found in models driven only by external radiative changes, demonstrating the need for initialization of decadal climate predictions.


Decadal prediction Atlantic MOC Predictability Multi-model comparison 



This work was supported by the joint DECC/Defra Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme (GA01101), EU-ENSEMBLES, EU-THOR and German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF)-The North Atlantic as Part of the Earth System: From System Comprehension to Analysis of Regional Impacts projects. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments which helped to improved the paper, M. McVean at ECMWF for carrying out the DePreSys PPE experiments, E. da Costa for performing the CERFACS experiments, and S. Cusack for performing the Had simulations. Observational time series of layer thickness for LS water courtesy of D. Kieke, IUP, Universität Bremen, Germany; NAO index of J. Hurrell, NCAR, CO, USA (, and altimeter products were produced and distributed by Aviso (, as part of the Ssalto ground processing segment. The Atlantic dipole SST index is calculated from HadISST data (Rayner et al. 2003) (


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Copyright information

© Crown Copyright 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Holger Pohlmann
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • Doug M. Smith
    • 1
  • Magdalena A. Balmaseda
    • 2
  • Noel S. Keenlyside
    • 3
  • Simona Masina
    • 4
  • Daniela Matei
    • 5
  • Wolfgang A. Müller
    • 5
  • Philippe Rogel
    • 6
  1. 1.Met Office Hadley CentreExeterUK
  2. 2.ECMWFReadingUK
  3. 3.Geophysical Institute and Bjerknes CentreUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  4. 4.Centro Euro-Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti ClimaticiIstituto Nazionale di Geofisica e VulcanologiaBolognaItaly
  5. 5.Max-Planck-Institut für MeteorologieHamburgGermany
  6. 6.CERFACS/URA1875/CNRSToulouse, CEDEX 1France

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