Date Published:21 mar 2017
Spectral analyses of the North Atlantic temperature field in the Simple Ocean Data Analysis (SODA) reanalysis identify prominent and statistically significant interannual oscillations along the Gulf Stream front and in large regions of the North Atlantic. A 7–8-yr oscillatory mode is characterized by a basin-wide southwest-to-northeast–oriented propagation pattern in the sea surface temperature (SST) field. This pattern is found to be linked to a seesaw in the meridional-dipole structure of the zonal wind stress forcing (TAUX). In the subpolar gyre, the SST and TAUX fields of this mode are shown to be in phase opposition, which suggests a cooling effect of the wind stress on the upper ocean layer. Over all, this mode’s temperature field is characterized by a strong equivalent-barotropic component, as shown by covariations in SSTs and sea surface heights, and by phase-coherent behavior of temperature layers at depth with the SST field. Recent improvements of multivariate singular spectrum analysis (M-SSA) help separate spatio-temporal patterns. This methodology is developed further and applied to studying the ocean’s response to variability in the atmospheric forcing. Statistical evidence is shown to exist for other mechanisms generating oceanic variability of similar 7–8-yr periodicity in the Gulf Stream region; the latter variability is likewise characterized by a strongly equivalent-barotropic component. Two other modes of biennial variability in the Gulf Stream region are also identified, and it is shown that interannual variability in this region cannot be explained by the ocean’s response to similar variability in the atmospheric forcing alone.