Alexander, M. A., M. S. Timlin, and J. D. Scott, 2001: Winter-to-winter recurrence of sea surface temperature, salinity and mixed layer depth anomalies. Prog. Oceanog., 49, 41-61.


The mean seasonal cycle of mixed layer depth (MLD) in the extratropical oceans has the potential to influence temperature, salinity and mixed layer depth anomalies from one winter to the next. Temperature and salinity anomalies that form at the surface and spread throughout the deep winter mixed layer are sequestered beneath the mixed layer when it shoals in spring, and are then re-entrained into the surface layer in the subsequent fall and winter. Here we document this 're-emergence mechanism' in the North Pacific Ocean using observed SSTs, subsurface temperature fields from a data assimilation system, and coupled atmosphere-ocean model simulations. Observations indicate that the dominant large-scale SST anomaly pattern that forms in the North Pacific during winter recurs in the following winter. The model simulation with mixed layer ocean physics reproduced the winter-to-winter recurrence, while model simulation with observed SSTs specified in the tropical Pacific and a 50 m slab in the North Pacific did not. This difference between the model results indicates that the winter-to-winter SST correlations are the result of the re-emergence mechanism, and not of similar atmospheric forcing of the ocean in consecutive winters. The model experiments also indicate that SST anomalies in the tropical Pacific associated with El Niño are not essential for re-emergence to occur.

The recurrence of observed SST and simulated SST and SSS anomalies are found in several regions in the central North Pacific, and are quite strong in the northern (>50°N) part of the basin. The winter-to-winter autocorrelation of SSS anomalies exceed those of SST, since only the latter are strongly damped by surface fluxes. The re-emergence mechanism also has a modest influence on MLD through changes in the vertical stratification in the seasonal thermocline.