North American west coast summer low cloudiness: Broadscale variability associated with sea surface temperature



Six decades of observations at 20 coastal airports, from Alaska to southern California, reveal coherent interannual to interdecadal variation of coastal low cloudiness (CLC) from summer to summer over this broad region. The leading mode of CLC variability represents coherent variation, accounting for nearly 40% of the total CLC variance spanning 1950–2012. This leading mode and the majority of individual airports exhibit decreased low cloudiness from the earlier to the later part of the record. Exploring climatic controls on CLC, we identify North Pacific Sea Surface Temperature anomalies, largely in the form of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) as well correlated with, and evidently helping to organize, the coherent patterns of summer coastal cloud variability. Links from the PDO to summer CLC appear a few months in advance of the summer. These associations hold up consistently in interannual and interdecadal frequencies.