Extraordinary multi-seasonal episodes like El Niños of 1982–1983 and 1997–1998 and their widespread teleconnection effects have spurred varied investigations on the changes in sea surface temperature (SST) variability in the post-WWII period. Most of them have been region-specific. We investigate here change in the variance of SST anomaly (SSTA) in the world oceans from 1951–1980 to 1981–2010. Our search for quantitative patterns, in space and time, is aided by a new decomposition of SSTA annual cycle in three orthogonal components, one time-independent, one low frequency (LF, periods: 4–12 months) and one high frequency (HF, periods: 2–3 months). High SSTA variability occurs in small regions clustered near the equator, middle and high latitudes. Sixteen high variability regions (HVR) are identified on the basis of a threshold. Spread over nearly 10% of the ocean area, they occur in four clusters: two in the equatorial cluster, four each in the northern and the southern mid-latitude clusters and six in the Arctic cluster. We find that the plots of HVR-averaged and zonally averaged SSTA variance in 1951–1980 and 1981–2010 show a general tendency of decrease in SSTA variability south of ~15°S and increase north of ~15°S, and a consequential increase in north–south asymmetry. We further find that HVR-averaged HF variance and HVR-averaged LF variance are strongly correlated.
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The authors would like to thank V Mudkavi, Head, CSIR-4PI, for permitting us to use the Institute facilities, P S Swathi and M K Sharada for a variety of assistance, Thangavelu and his colleagues for system support, and finally NOAA for putting ERSSTv5 dataset and Ferret software in the public domain.
Communicated by Parthasarathi Mukhopadhyay
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Yajnik, K.S., Devasana, C.K. Changing variability of sea surface temperature in the post-WWII era. J Earth Syst Sci 130, 144 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12040-021-01637-8
- Climate change
- El Niño
- sea surface temperature
- interannual variability
- climate science
- orthogonal decomposition
- normal modes