A new modeling approach to improve decadal climate predictions

Billowing cumulus over the Gulf of Mexico, August 2006. (Credit: NOAA)

A CPO-supported study in Geophysical Research Letters highlights modeling techniques that may enhance predictability of decadal climate change. 

The approach involves novel techniques for modeling interactions between low clouds, sea surface temperatures, and atmospheric circulation—and how those interactions may influence drought in North America. 

This study was supported by the CPO Climate Variability and Predictability program.

Read the paper


Recent studies suggest that low clouds in the Pacific play an important role in the observed decadal climate variability and future climate change. In this study, we implement a novel modeling experiment designed to isolate how interactions between local and remote feedbacks associated with low cloud, SSTs, and the large-scale circulation play a significant role in the observed persistence of tropical Pacific SST and associated North American drought. The modeling approach involves the incorporation of observed patterns of satellite-derived shortwave cloud radiative effect (SWCRE) into the coupled model framework and is ideally suited for examining the role of local and large-scale coupled feedbacks and ocean heat transport in Pacific decadal variability. We show that changes in SWCRE forcing in eastern subtropical Pacific alone reproduces much of the observed changes in SST and atmospheric circulation over the past 16 years, including the observed changes in precipitation over much of the Western Hemisphere.





Americans’ health, security and economic wellbeing are tied to climate and weather. Every day, we see communities grappling with environmental challenges due to unusual or extreme events related to climate and weather. In 2017, the United States experienced a record-tying 16 climate- and weather-related disasters where overall costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. Combined, these events claimed 362 lives, and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted, costing more than $306 billion. Businesses, policy leaders, resource managers and citizens are increasingly asking for information to help them address such challenges.


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