A primitive equation ocean general circulation model is used to investigate climate impacts in the North Pacific Ocean in the 1996 to 2003 period. The objective is to assess the model ability to reproduce observed modes of variability and study their impact in the northeast Pacific. This work is done within the framework of the U. S. Global Ecosystem ( GLOBEC) Northeast Pacific Program studying the links between climate variability and ecosystem dynamics. Three large- scale events are considered: The 1997/ 1998 El Nino, the 1999 " regime shift,'' and the 2002 cold/ fresh subsurface anomalous water mass that was observed in the Gulf of Alaska and off the coast of Oregon. The circulation model is shown to generate the correct seasonal to interannual large- scale variability and is able to represent the climatic signals of interest in the eastern Pacific. We show that the influence of the 1997/ 1998 El Nino reached the coastal Gulf of Alaska and induced an increase in the upper ocean heat content along the coast of North America. An analysis of the sea surface temperature for the model years shows agreement between model and data in the representation of the 1999 shift to a cold phase in the eastern and northern North Pacific. Finally, using the model results, we speculate that the origin of the 2002 cold/ fresh anomaly in the northeast Pacific was due to enhanced mixing during the preceding winter in the center of the Alaska gyre. Owing to anomalous changes in the density structure of the upper ocean, this water was able to move geostrophically toward the coast and it persisted in the northeast Pacific below the mixed layer the following year.
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