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Global linkages originating from decadal oceanic variability in the subpolar North Atlantic

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Abstract

The anomalous decadal warming of the subpolar North Atlantic Ocean (SPNA), and the northward spreading of this warm water, has been linked to rapid Arctic sea ice loss and more frequent cold European winters. Recently, variations in this heat transport have also been reported to covary with global warming slowdown/acceleration periods via a Pacific climate response. We here examine the role of SPNA temperature variability in this Atlantic-Pacific climate connectivity. We find that the evolution of ocean heat content anomalies from the subtropics to the subpolar region, likely due to ocean circulation changes, coincides with a basin-wide Atlantic warming/cooling. This induces an Atlantic-Pacific sea surface temperature seesaw, which in turn, strengthens/weakens the Walker circulation and amplifies the Pacific decadal variability that triggers pronounced global-scale atmospheric circulation anomalies. We conclude that the decadal oceanic variability in the SPNA is an essential component of the tropical interactions between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

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