A cautionary note on the interpretation of EOFs

Dietmar Dommenget, Mojib Latif

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

280 Citations (Scopus)


Empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analyses (rotated or not) are widely used in climate research. In recent years there have been several studies in which EOF analyses were used to highlight potential physical mechanisms associated with climate variability. For example, several SST modes were identified such as the "Tropical Atlantic Dipole." the "Tropical Indian Ocean Dipole." and different SLP modes in the Northern Hemisphere winter. In this note it is emphasized that caution should be used when trying to interpret these statistically derived modes and their significance. Indeed, from a synthetic example it is shown that patterns derived from EOF analyses can be misleading at times and associated with very little climate physics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-225
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2002
Externally publishedYes

Cite this