Decadal variations in the global atmospheric land temperatures



[1] Interannual to decadal variations in Earth global temperature estimates have often been identified with El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events. However, we show that variability on time scales of 2–15 years in mean annual global land surface temperature anomalies Tavg are more closely correlated with variability in sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic. In particular, the cross-correlation of annually averaged values of Tavg with annual values of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) index is much stronger than that of Tavg with ENSO. The pattern of fluctuations in Tavg from 1950 to 2010 reflects true climate variability and is not an artifact of station sampling. A world map of temperature correlations shows that the association with AMO is broadly distributed and unidirectional. The effect of El Niño on temperature is locally stronger, but can be of either sign, leading to less impact on the global average. We identify one strong narrow spectral peak in the AMO at period 9.1 ± 0.4 years and p value of 1.7% (confidence level, 98.3%). Variations in the flow of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation may be responsible for some of the 2–15 year variability observed in global land temperatures.