Decadal prediction of the North Atlantic subpolar gyre in the HiGEM high-resolution climate model

Jon Robson, Irene Polo, Dan L. R. Hodson, David P. Stevens, Len C. Shaffrey

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This paper presents an analysis of initialised decadal hindcasts of the North Atlantic subpolar gyre (SPG) using the HiGEM model, which has a nominal grid-spacing of 90 km in the atmosphere, and 1/3 ∘∘ in the ocean. HiGEM decadal predictions (HiGEM-DP) exhibit significant skill at capturing 0–500 m ocean heat content in the SPG, and outperform historically forced transient integrations and persistence for up to a decade ahead. An analysis of case-studies of North Atlantic decadal change, including the 1960s cooling, the mid-1990s warming, and the post-2005 cooling, show that changes in ocean circulation and heat transport dominate the predictions of the SPG. However, different processes are found to dominate heat content changes in different regions of the SPG. Specifically, ocean advection dominates in the east, but surface fluxes dominate in the west. Furthermore, compared to previous studies, we find a smaller role for ocean heat transport changes due to ocean circulation anomalies at the latitudes of the SPG, and, for the 1960s cooling, a greater role for surface fluxes. Finally, HiGEM-DP predicts the observed positive state of the North Atlantic Oscillation in the early 1990s. These results support an important role for the ocean in driving past changes in the North Atlantic region, and suggest that these changes were predictable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)921–937
Number of pages17
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number3-4
Early online date12 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


  • North Atlantic
  • Decadal Prediction
  • Subpolar Gyre
  • Climate variability
  • High-resolution climate modelling

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