Variability in surface currents is mainly induced by the time-varying wind forcing. Recent studies have revealed robust pronounced changes in the atmospheric circulation over the Pacific came with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). However, the PDO is a climate index based on sea surface temperature (SST) variations, and may not be appropriately considered as a climate forcing. Here, we suggest the Atlantic SST variability is the ultimate forcing leading to changes in the atmospheric circulation and surface winds over the North Pacific. Anomalous warm North Atlantic and cold South Atlantic leads to weak Hadley cell in the Northern Hemisphere, resulting in a northward displacement of the ITCZ as well as a positive wind stress curl anomaly in the Pacific subtropical region, which would reduce the North Pacific subtropical gyre (NPSG). Associated with reduced sea surface height in the subtropics by the weakened NPSG, the North Equatorial Current (NEC) is weakened based on geostrophy. Changes in basin-scale winds further result in the southward migration of the tropical gyre and consequential downstream ocean circulation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas