The Bjerknes feedback is the dominant positive feedback in the equatorial ocean basins. To examine the seasonality, symmetry, and stationarity of the Pacific and Atlantic Bjerknes feedbacks we decompose them into three feedback elements that relate thermocline depth, sea surface temperature (SST), and western basin wind stress variability to each other. We partition feedback elements into composites associated with positive or negative anomalies. Using robust regression, we diagnose the strength of each composite.
For the recent period 1993‐2012, composites of the Pacific Bjerknes feedback elements agree well with previous work. Positive composites are generally stronger than negative composites, and all feedback elements are weakest in late boreal spring. In the Atlantic, differences between positive and negative composites are less consistent across feedback elements. Specifically, wind variability seems to play a less important role in shaping atmosphere‐ocean coupling in the Atlantic when compared to the Pacific. However, a clear seasonality emerges: Feedback elements are generally strong in boreal summer and, for the negative composites, again in boreal winter. The Atlantic Bjerknes feedback is dominated by subsurface‐surface coupling.
Applying our analysis to overlapping 25‐year periods for 1958‐2009 shows that the strengths of feedback elements in both ocean basins vary on decadal time scales. While the overall asymmetry of the Pacific Bjerknes feedback is robust, the strength and symmetry of Atlantic feedback elements vary considerably between decades. Our results indicate that the Atlantic Bjerknes feedback is non‐stationary on decadal time scales.