A paper published last week in the Journal of Climate attributes warming of the North Atlantic ocean surface temperatures in the mid-1990s to a prolonged positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), a natural ocean oscillation with no relation to 'greenhouse gas' concentrations.
Journal of Climate 2012 ; e-View
Jon Robson* and Rowan Sutton
In the mid-1990s the subpolar gyre of the North Atlantic underwent a remarkable rapid warming, with sea surface temperatures increasing by around 1C in just 2 years. This rapid warming followed a prolonged positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), but also coincided with an unusually negative NAO index in the winter of 1995/96. By comparing ocean analyses and carefully designed model experiments we show that this rapid warming can be understood as a delayed response to the prolonged positive phase of the NAO, and not simply an instantaneous response to the negative NAO index of 1995/96. Furthermore, we infer that the warming was partly caused by a surge, and subsequent decline, in the Meridional Overturning Circulation and northward heat transport of the Atlantic Ocean. Our results provide persuasive evidence of significant oceanic memory on multi-annual timescales, and are therefore encouraging for the prospects of developing skillful predictions.