Global modes of sea surface temperature

Monique Messié and Francisco P. Chavez

Original study: Messié, M. and F.P. Chavez, 2011: Global modes of sea surface temperature variability in relation to regional climate indices. Journal of Climate, 24(16), 4313-4330. doi:10.1175/2011JCLI3941.1

Abstract: A century-long EOF analysis of global sea surface temperature (SST) was carried out and the first six modes, independent by construction, were found to be associated with well-known regional climate phenomena: the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO), El Niño Modoki and the Atlantic El Niño. Four of the six global modes are dominated by Pacific changes, the other (M2 and M6) being associated with the AMO and Atlantic El Niño, respectively. The principal component time series of the ENSO (M1) and North Pacific (M3) modes are coherent at time scales > 10 years, and their interaction results in the traditional PDO pattern and the dominant mode of Pacific multi-decadal variability. The M3 and PDO time series are well correlated but the EOFs have different spatial patterns. The fourth mode (M4) has been strengthening since the fifties and is related to the NPGO but also to El Niño Modoki especially at the decadal scale. The fifth global mode (M5) is also spatially and temporally correlated to El Niño Modoki. The Pacific SST modes are further related to atmospheric forcing, and the circulation of the North Pacific subpolar and subtropical gyres.

Data available for download: The six first principal components computed from ERSST v3b in the JClim study (original M-set, 1910-2009) are available here. Updated time series from ERSST v5 (1910-present) are available here. The update is realized by projecting the ERSST v5 anomalies on the original EOF maps (Fig. 2). The corresponding timeseries are plotted in Fig. 3 and are almost identical to the original M-set presented in Messié and Chavez 2011 for the 1910-2009 time period (r>0.94, and >0.97 for M1, M3 and M4).


Fig. 1: Latest worldwide SST anomalies from the ERSST v5 dataset (1910-2009 trend and seasonal cycle removed). The EOF analysis was run on the 1910-2009 anomalies. 

Fig. 2: Global EOF spatial patterns of the first six SST modes calculated from ERSST v3b for the 1910-2009 period. Reproduced from Messié and Chavez (2011) (Fig. 4).

Fig. 3: ERSST v5 time series corresponding to the global EOF modes presented in Fig. 2 (updated monthly, see “Data available for download” above). Time series of well correlated regional indices are superimposed. The NPGO index is negatively correlated with M4 and has been inverted. Both the percentage associated with each mode and the correlation with climate indices are updated to correspond to the full time series. Link to time series, data visualization.


Upper-ocean systems
Acoustical ocean ecology
Acoustic instruments
Acoustic fingerprinting
Acoustic community ecology
Acoustics in the news
Biological oceanography
Global modes of sea surface temperature
Nitrate supply estimates in upwelling systems
Chemical sensors
Chemical data
Land/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatory in Elkhorn Slough
Listing of floats
SOCCOM float visualization
Periodic table of elements in the ocean
Biogeochemical-Argo Report
Profiling float
Marine microbes
Population dynamics of phytoplankton
Microbial predators
Microbe-algae interactions
Targeted metagenomics
In the news
Upcoming events and lab news
Past talks and presentations
Join the lab
Molecular ecology
Molecular systematics
SIMZ Project
Bone-eating worms
Gene flow and dispersal
Molecular-ecology expeditions
Interdisciplinary field experiments
Ecogenomic Sensing
Genomic sensors
Field experiments
Harmful algal blooms (HABs)
Water quality
Environmental Sample Processor
ESP Web Portal
In the news
Ocean observing system
Midwater research
Midwater ecology
Deep-sea squids and octopuses
Food web dynamics
Midwater time series
Respiration studies
Zooplankton biodiversity
Seafloor processes
Biology and ecology
Effects of humans
Ocean acidification, warming, deoxygenation
Lost shipping container study
Effects of upwelling
Faunal patterns
Past research
Technology development
High-CO2 / low-pH ocean
Benthic respirometer system
Climate change in extreme environments
Monitoring instrumentation suite
Sargasso Sea research
Antarctic research
Long-term time series
Geological changes
Arctic Shelf Edge
Continental Margins and Canyon Dynamics
Coordinated Canyon Experiment
Monterey Canyon: Stunning deep-sea topography revealed
Ocean chemistry of greenhouse gases
Emerging science of a high CO2/low pH ocean
Submarine volcanoes
Mid-ocean ridges
Magmatic processes
Volcanic processes
Explosive eruptions
Hydrothermal systems
Back arc spreading ridges
Near-ridge seamounts
Continental margin seamounts
Non-hot-spot linear chains
Eclectic seamounts topics
Margin processes
Hydrates and seeps
California borderland
Hot spot research
Hot-spot plumes
Magmatic processes
Volcanic processes
Explosive eruptions
Volcanic hazards
Hydrothermal systems
Flexural arch
Coral reefs
ReefGrow software
Eclectic topics
Submarine volcanism cruises
Volcanoes resources
Areas of study
Microscopic biology research
Open ocean biology research
Seafloor biology research
Automated chemical sensors
Methane in the seafloor
Volcanoes and seamounts
Hydrothermal vents
Methane in the seafloor
Submarine canyons
Earthquakes and landslides
Ocean acidification
Physical oceanography and climate change
Ocean circulation and algal blooms
Ocean cycles and climate change
Research publications