Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



Journal of Climate 25 (2012); DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00520.1


Copyright 2012 American Meteorological Society


Interannual and multidecadal time-scale anomalies in sea surface temperatures (SST) of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans could result in persistent atmospheric circulation and regional precipitation anomalies for years to decades. Understanding the processes that connect such SST forcings with circulation and precipitation anomalies is thus important for understanding climate variations and for improving predictions at interannual–decadal time scales. This study focuses on the interrelationship between the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) and El Nino–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and their resulting interannual to multidecadal time-scale variations in summertime precipitation in North America. Major results show that the ENSO forcing can strongly modify the atmospheric circulation variations driven by the AMO. Moreover, these modifications differ considerably between the subtropics and the mid- and high-latitude regions. In the subtropics, ENSO-driven variations in precipitation are fairly uniform across longitudes so ENSO effects only add interannual variations to the amplitude of the precipitation anomaly pattern driven by the AMO. In the mid and high latitudes, ENSO-forced waves in the atmosphere strongly modify the circulation anomalies driven by the AMO, resulting in distinctive interannual variations following the ENSO cycle. The role of the AMO is shown by an asymmetry in precipitation during ENSO between the warm and cold phases of the AMO. These results extend the outcomes of the studies of the recent Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) Drought Working Group from the AMO and ENSO effects on droughts to understanding of the mechanisms and causal processes connecting the individual and combined SST forcing of the AMO and ENSO with the interannual and multidecadal variations in summertime precipitation and droughts in North America.