The Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO, a vast pool of cold water sloshing around the northern Pacific ocean, was first discovered just fourteen years ago. It's existence has yet to make an imprint in public consciousness, in part because its effects are so varied. But Wendee Holtcamp, an excellent freelance science reporter, helps us understand the climatic ironies, such as a chilling Bering Sea in the midst of a warming planet, in a story for Climate Central.
Scientists do not yet have any reliable way of predicting how the PDO will change in the future, as they do with the better-studied El Niño. In the meantime, year-round ice cover in the Arctic continues to decline every year, and global average land and sea surface temperatures continue to rise.
And even as some folks get lost amidst these erratic global climate and weather patterns, the reality is that the interaction between manmade climate change and natural cycles like the PDO is complex. “I think a lot of people are confused by it. They think, ‘how can you have these fierce winters in the Eastern U.S. or Western Europe if we’re facing global warming?’” poses [Nathan] Mantua, [a climate scientist]. “The simple answer is that there’s a lot of regional variation that may be completely independent of global warming.”
Holtcamp has a knack for simplifying the complex, something I'm trying to learn from her in her courses for free-lance journalists.
Here's the PDO on a global scale, color-coded by temp so you can see the shifts over time: