Call for interested postdoctoral collaborators – Nonstationary atmosphere-ocean and climate-biology relationships in the North Pacific Ocean

Nonstationary atmosphere-ocean and climate-biology relationships in the North Pacific Ocean – call for interested postdoctoral collaborators

Understanding nonstationarity in statistical parameters describing atmosphere-ocean and climate-biology interactions may improve our ability to resolve the ecological consequences of climate change. As an example, consider temporal changes in the relative importance of leading modes (patterns) of North Pacific atmospheric and oceanic variability. Prior to the late 1980s, the Aleutian Low (AL) atmospheric pattern and associated PDO ocean pattern dominated North Pacific climate variability. Since the late 1980s, the North Pacific Oscillation (NPO) atmospheric pattern and associated NPGO ocean pattern have become relatively more important (explained more variance). A leading characteristic of this change in importance of different climate patterns has been a decline in AL variability. With the decline in AL variability, negative correlations between sea level pressure (SLP) and sea surface temperature (SST) that had previously characterized the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) and eastern Bering Sea (EBS) ecosystems largely disappeared. This change apparently led to a loss of coherent variability in local climate processes driven by SLP variability (e.g., freshwater input, wind mixing), and a decline in correlations between SST and productivity for salmon and other taxa in the GOA. Under these changes, commonly-used climate indices and parameters (e.g., the PDO, NPGO, and NPI indices, and local SST) show nonstationary correlations with climatic and biological processes. Statistical models assuming stationary biological responses to these climate indices and parameters therefore appear to be unsuitable for resolving climate-biology interactions over multi-decadal time scales in the GOA.

A two-year research project funded by the NOAA-FATE program, beginning in 2018, will seek to expand on these results by advancing three objectives: 1) test the generality of SLP-SST correlations as a predictor for biological responses to climate anomalies in the EBS, GOA, and northern California Current ecosystems; 2) develop a new climate index reflecting the strength of SLP-SST correlations; and 3) use seasonal climate forecasts to make short-term predictions of changes to SLP-SST correlation patterns. I am seeking a collaborator interested in applying to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Centennial Postdoctoral Initiative to develop a research project to collaborate with this NOAA-FATE effort. Some possible topics include: documenting changing portfolio diversity in salmon runs under nonstationary AL variability; developing a new climate index that can account for nonstationary relationships between basin-scale and regional climate variability; assessing the role of changes in the Arctic Oscillation pattern as a driver in changing North Pacific SLP-SST relationships; detailed study of nonstationary behavior in primary EBS climate processes (wind stress, advection, ice cover, etc.) under nonstationary AL variability; developing a more thorough understanding of the ecological implications of changing atmosphere-ocean interactions at the basin scale; or developing statistical tools for addressing nonstationary atmosphere-ocean and climate-biology relationships. Researchers interested in this opportunity should have a background in atmospheric science, physical oceanography, fisheries oceanography, marine ecology, statistics, or a related field, and should have a strong interest in cross-disciplinary collaboration. The Centennial Postdoctoral Initiative is a competitive funding opportunity, suitable for top-flight early career scientists with proven research ability. Selection begins March 1, 2018. A successful applicant would be located in either Kodiak (preferred), Juneau, or Fairbanks.

For more information, contact Mike Litzow (907.486.1503 or mlitzow@alaska.edu). Information on the Centennial Postdoc positions is at: http://careers.alaska.edu/cw/en-us/job/508452/university-of-alaska-fairbanks-uaf-centennial-postdoctoral-initiative

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