Müller, W.A., Baehr, J.
An analysis of a three-member ensemble of initialized coupled simulations with the MPI-ESM-LR covering the period 1901–2010 shows that Atlantic northward ocean heat transport (OHT) at 50°N influences surface temperature variability in the North Atlantic region for several years. Three to ten years after strong OHT phases at 50°N, a characteristic pattern of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies emerges: warm anomalies are found in the North Atlantic and cold anomalies emerge in the Gulf Stream region. This pattern originates from persistent upper-ocean heat content anomalies that originate from southward-propagating OHT anomalies in the North Atlantic. Interannual-to-decadal SST predictability of yearly initialized hindcasts is linked to this SST pattern: when ocean heat transport at 50°N is strong at the initialization of a hindcast, SST anomaly correlation coefficients in the northeast Atlantic at lead years 2–9 are significantly higher than when the ocean heat transport at 50°N is weak at initialization. Surface heat fluxes that mask the predictable low-frequency oceanic variability that influences SSTs in the northwest Atlantic after strong OHT phases, and in the northwest and northeast Atlantic after weak OHT phases at 50°N lead to zonally asymmetrically predictable SSTs 7–9 years ahead. This study shows that the interannual-to-decadal predictability of North Atlantic SSTs depends strongly on the strength of subpolar ocean heat transport at the start of a prediction, indicating that physical mechanisms need to be taken into account for actual temperature predictions.