Pacific decadal climate variability: Indices, patterns and tropical-extratropical interactions

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Pacific decadal variability (PDV) plays a critical role in the climate system. Here I present a review of indices and patterns of decadal climate variability in the Pacific from observations and palaeoclimate reconstructions. I examine the spatial characteristics of Pacific sea surface temperature variability and the metrics used to track observations of PDV. I find commonalities between the PDV patterns, the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) and its North and South Pacific counterparts, the Pacific Decadal and South Pacific Decadal Oscillations (PDO and SPDO). I present a tool to provide probabilistic quantification of the recent state of the IPO, and use the tool to provide reliable estimates of IPO state up to 2 years prior to the present. The tool indicates a probability of 80–90% that the IPO remained in its negative state until 2014–2015. I review palaeoclimate reconstructions of the IPO and PDO, and outline advances and challenges in our pre-instrumental understanding of PDV. I draw attention to a Pacific-wide tropical-extratropical mechanism that suggests that the cool and warm phases of PDV are not driven by tropical or extratropical variability alone, but are instead the result of continuous tropical-extratropical interactions on decadal timescales. I conclude by noting key sources of remaining uncertainty and emphasising the need to better understand decadal variability. This will occur through continual improvements in observations, an expansion of palaeoclimate exploration and data collection, and renewed efforts in model development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-55
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation
  • IPO
  • Pacific Decadal Oscillation
  • Pacific decadal variability
  • PDO
  • PDV

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