Possible Forcing of Global Temperature by the Oceanic Tides
An approximately decadal periodicity in surface air temperature is discernable in global observations from A.D. 1855 to 1900 and since A.D. 1945, but with a periodicity of only about 6 years during the intervening period. Changes in solar irradiance related to the sunspot cycle have been proposed to account for the former, but cannot account for the latter. To explain both by a single mechanism, we propose that extreme oceanic tides may produce changes in sea surface temperature at repeat periods, which alternate between approximately one-third and one-half of the lunar nodal cycle of 18.6 years. These alternations, recurring at nearly 90-year intervals, reflect varying slight degrees of misalignment and departures from the closest approach of the Earth with the Moon and Sun at times of extreme tide raising forces. Strong forcing, consistent with observed temperature periodicities, occurred at 9-year intervals close to perihelion (solar perigee) for several decades centered on A.D. 1881 and 1974, but at 6-year intervals for several decades centered on A.D. 1923. As a physical explanation for tidal forcing of temperature we propose that the dissipation of extreme tides increases vertical mixing of sea water, thereby causing episodic cooling near the sea surface. If this mechanism correctly explains near-decadal temperature periodicities, it may also apply to variability in temperature and climate on other times-scales, even millennial and longer.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
- Pub Date:
- August 1997