• Caribbean;
  • climate variability

[1] Rainfall variability in the eastern Caribbean during the 20th century is analyzed using principal component analysis and singular value decomposition. In contrast to earlier studies that used seasonal data, here we employ continuous signal processing. The leading mode is a decadal oscillation related to third and fourth modes of sea level pressure (SLP) and sea surface temperatures (SST) which together identify three zones of action in the Atlantic: 35°N–20°N, 20°N–5°N, and 5°N–20°S. The ability of the ECHAM4.5 model to simulate this signal is investigated. Its decadal variability is also represented through lower-order SLP and SST modes that comprise an Atlantic tripole pattern with lower pressure east of the Caribbean. Composite analysis of high and low phases of the decadal mode reflects a cool east Pacific and a more active Atlantic Intertropical Convergence Zone during boreal summer, conditions that favor the intensification of African easterly waves. The decadal signal has strengthened since 1970, yet the three centers of action in Atlantic SST are relatively unsynchronized.