TitleEmpirical evidence for North Pacific regime shifts in 1977 and 1989
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsHare, SR, Mantua, NJ
JournalProgress in Oceanography

It is now widely accepted that a climatic regime shift transpired in the North Pacific Ocean in the winter of 1976–77. This regime shift has had far reaching consequences for the large marine ecosystems of the North Pacific. Despite the strength and scope of the changes initiated by the shift, it was 10–15 years before it was fully recognized. Subsequent research has suggested that this event was not unique in the historical record but merely the latest in a succession of climatic regime shifts. In this study, we assembled 100 environmental time series, 31 climatic and 69 biological, to determine if there is evidence for common regime signals in the 1965–1997 period of record. Our analysis reproduces previously documented features of the 1977 regime shift, and identifies a further shift in 1989 in some components of the North Pacific ecosystem. The 1989 changes were neither as pervasive as the 1977 changes nor did they signal a simple return to pre-1977 conditions. A notable feature of the 1989 regime shift is the relative clarity that is found in biological records, which contrasts with the relative lack of clear changes expressed by indices of Pacific climate. Thus, the large marine ecosystems of the North Pacific and Bering Sea appear to filter climate variability strongly, and respond nonlinearly to environmental forcing. We conclude that monitoring North Pacific and Bering Sea ecosystems may allow for an earlier identification of regime shifts than is possible from monitoring climate data alone.