The ocean occupies 95% of the Caribbean's area and plays a leading role in the region's climate, thus making the sea surface temperature (SST) a very important regional climate index. This, in conjunction with the lack of a regionally consistent, quality-controlled surface temperature dataset increases the scientific value of using SST to characterize the regional climate and its trends. This study determines the magnitudes of the long-term SST trends in the Wider Caribbean (WC) and the Antilles. We overcome the presence of discontinuity points in the SST time series using the change point statistical technique. Annual mean SST trends combining the subperiods 1906-1969 and 1972-2005 are 1.32 ± 0.41 °C per century for the Antilles and 1.08 ± 0.32 °C per century for the WC. For the same regions during the subperiod 1972-2005, the corresponding trends are 1.41 ± 0.68 °C per century and 1.18 ± 0.49 °C per century, illustrating the warming intensification during the last four decades. A significant correlation is found between the SSTs in the Caribbean and Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) index, suggesting a potential link between Caribbean SSTs and the mechanisms governing the Atlantic basin-wide SSTs. Finally, the capabilities of two state-of-the-art coupled climate models, the Norwegian Earth System Model (NorESM1-M) and the Bergen Climate Model (BCM), to simulate SST in the Caribbean were tested. Both models produce an adequate simulation of the annual mean SST anomalies and SST seasonal cycle for the WC and the Antilles. The simulated annual and monthly mean SSTs are colder in the two models compared to the observations, a common feature among the majority of general circulation models participating in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5. However, despite these minor deficiencies both BCM and NorESM1-M are considered adequate for conducting SST simulations relevant for future climate change research in the Caribbean.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science
- Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation
- Sea surface temperature
- Sea surface temperature trend