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Atlantic multidecadal oscillation


The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) is a climate cycle that affects the sea surface temperature of the North Atlantic Ocean based on different modes on multidecadal timescales. While there is some support for this mode in models and in historical observations, controversy exists with regard to its amplitude, and in particular, the attribution of sea surface temperature change to natural or anthropogenic causes, especially in tropical Atlantic areas important for hurricane development.

The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) was identified by Schlesinger and Ramankutty in 1994.

The AMO signal is usually defined from the patterns of SST variability in the North Atlantic once any linear trend has been removed. This detrending is intended to remove the influence of greenhouse gas-induced global warming from the analysis. However, if the global warming signal is significantly non-linear in time (i.e. not just a smooth linear increase), variations in the forced signal will leak into the AMO definition. Consequently, correlations with the AMO index may mask effects of global warming.

Several methods have been proposed to remove the global trend and ENSO influence over the North Atlantic SST. Trenberth and Shea, assuming that the effect of global forcing over the North Atlantic is similar to the global ocean, subtracted the global (60°N-60°S) mean SST from the North Atlantic SST to derive a revised AMO index.

Ting et al. however argue that the forced SST pattern is not spatially uniform; they separated the forced and internally generated variability using signal to noise maximizing EOF analysis.

Van Oldenborgh et al. derived an AMO index as the SST averaged over the extra-tropical North Atlantic (to remove the influence of ENSO that is greater at tropical latitude) minus the regression on global mean temperature.



  • Teegavarapu, R. S. V., A. Goly and J. Obeysekera (2013). Influences of Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation on Regional Precipitation Extremes, Journal of Hydrology, 495 (2013) 74–93.
  • Goly, Aneesh; Teegavarapu, Ramesh S. V. (2014). "Individual and coupled influences of AMO and ENSO on regional precipitation characteristics and extremes". Water Resources Research. 50: 4686–4709. doi:10.1002/2013WR014540. 
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