The temporal stationarity of the teleconnection between the tropical Pacific Ocean and North America (NA) is analyzed in atmosphere-only, and coupled last-millennium, historical, and control runs from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 data archive. The teleconnection, defined as the correlation between December-January-February (DJF) tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and DJF 200 mb geopotential height, is found to be nonstationary on multidecadal timescales. There are significant changes in the spatial features of the teleconnection over NA in continuous 56-year segments of the last millennium and control simulations. Analysis of atmosphere-only simulations forced with observed SSTs indicates that atmospheric noise cannot account for the temporal variability of the teleconnection, which instead is likely explained by the strength of, and multidecadal changes in, tropical Pacific Ocean variability. These results have implications for teleconnection-based analyses of model fidelity in simulating precipitation, as well as any reconstruction and forecasting efforts that assume stationarity of the observed teleconnection.
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