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Drivers of exceptional coastal warming in the northeastern United States


Ambarish Karmalkar

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Secondary Title:
Nature Climate Change
1758-678X, 1758-6798


The northeastern United States (NEUS) and the adjacent Northwest Atlantic Shelf (NWS) have emerged as warming hotspots, but the connection between them remains unexplored. Here we use gridded observational and reanalysis datasets to show that the twentieth-century surface air temperature increase along the coastal NEUS is exceptional on the continental and hemispheric scale and is induced by a combination of two factors: the sea surface temperature (SST) increase in the NWS associated with a weakening Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), and atmospheric circulation changes associated with a more persistent positive North Atlantic Oscillation. These connections are important because AMOC slowdown and NWS warming are projected to continue. A survey of climate model simulations indicates that realistic SST representation at high spatial resolution might be a minimum requirement to capture the observed pattern of coastal warming, suggesting that prior projection-based assessments may not have captured key features in this populous region.