The Northern Oscillation Index (NOI): a new climate index for the northeast Pacific
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We introduce the Northern Oscillation Index (NOI), a new index of climate variability based on the difference in sea level pressure (SLP) anomalies at the North Pacific High (NPH) in the northeast Pacific (NEP) and near Darwin, Australia, in a climatologically low SLP region. These two locations are centers of action for the north Pacific Hadley–Walker atmospheric circulation. SLPs at these sites have a strong negative correlation that reflects their roles in this circulation. Global atmospheric circulation anomaly patterns indicate that the NEP is linked to the western tropical Pacific and southeast Asia via atmospheric wave trains associated with fluctuations in this circulation. Thus the NOI represents a wide range of tropical and extratropical climate events impacting the north Pacific on intraseasonal, interannual, and decadal scales. The NOI is roughly the north Pacific equivalent of the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), but extends between the tropics and extratropics. Because the NOI is partially based in the NEP, it provides a more direct indication of the mechanisms by which global-scale climate events affect the north Pacific and North America. The NOI is dominated by interannual variations associated with El Niño and La Niña (EN/LN) events. Large positive (negative) index values are usually associated with LN (EN) and negative (positive) upper ocean temperature anomalies in the NEP, particularly along the North American west coast. The NOI and SOI are highly correlated, but are clearly different in several respects. EN/LN variations tend to be represented by larger swings in the NOI. Forty percent of the interannual moderate and strong interannual NOI events are seen by the SOI as events that are either weak or opposite in sign. The NOI appears to be a better index of environmental variability in the NEP than the SOI, and NPH SLP alone, suggesting the NOI is more effective at incorporating the influences of regional and remotely teleconnected climate processes. The NOI contains alternating decadal-scale periods dominated by positive and negative values, suggesting substantial climate shifts on a roughly 14-year ‘cycle’. The NOI was predominantly positive prior to 1965, during 1970–1976 and 1984–1991, and since 1998. Negative values predominated in 1965–1970, 1977–1983, and 1991–1998. In the NEP, interannual and decadal-scale negative NOI periods (e.g. EN events) are generally associated with weaker trade winds, weaker coastal upwelling-favorable winds, warmer upper ocean temperatures, lower Pacific Northwest salmon catch, higher Alaska salmon catch, and generally decreased macrozooplankton biomass off southern California. The opposite physical and biological patterns generally occur when the index is positive. Simultaneous correlations of the NOI with north Pacific upper ocean temperature anomalies are greatest during the boreal winter and spring. Lagged correlations of the winter and spring NOI with subsequent upper ocean temperatures are high for several seasons. The relationships between the NOI and atmospheric and physical and biological oceanic anomalies in the NEP indicate this index is a useful diagnostic of climate change in the NEP, and suggest mechanisms linking variations in the physical environment to marine resources on interannual to decadal climate scales. The NOI time series is available online at: http://www.pfeg.noaa.gov.
RightsThis publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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