Initialized decadal predictions of the rapid warming of the North Atlantic Ocean in the mid 1990s

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Abstract

[1] In the mid 1990s the North Atlantic subpolar gyre (SPG) warmed rapidly, with sea surface temperatures (SST) increasing by 1°C in just a few years. By examining initialized hindcasts made with the UK Met Office Decadal Prediction System (DePreSys), it is shown that the warming could have been predicted. Conversely, hindcasts that only consider changes in radiative forcings are not able to capture the rapid warming. Heat budget analysis shows that the success of the DePreSys hindcasts is due to the initialization of anomalously strong northward ocean heat transport. Furthermore, it is found that initializing a strong Atlantic circulation, and in particular a strong Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, is key for successful predictions. Finally, we show that DePreSys is able to predict significant changes in SST and other surface climate variables related to the North Atlantic warming.

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