Low-Frequency Variability in the Northern Hemisphere Winter: Geographical Distribution, Structure and Time-Scale Dependence

Yochanan Kushnir Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle. Washington

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John M. Wallace Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle. Washington

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Abstract

Low-frequency variability in wintertime 500 mb height is examined, with emphasis on its structure, geographical distribution, and frequency dependence. A 39-year record of 500 mb geopotential height fields from the NMC analyses is time filtered to partition the fluctuations into frequency bands corresponding to periods of 10–60 days, 60–180 days and > 180 days. Winter is defined as the six month period November through April. Variance, teleconnectivity, and anisotropy fields, and selected loading vectors derived from orthogonal and oblique rotations of the eigenvectors of the temporal correlation matrix for each band are shown and discussed.

The variability in all frequency bands exhibits substantial anistropy, with meridionally elongated features arranged as zonally oriented wave trains prevailing over the continents and zonally elongated features organized in the form of north–south oriented dipole patterns prevailing over the oceanic sectors of the hemisphere. The wave trains are most pronounced in the 10–60 day variability, while the dipoles are most pronounced at lower frequencies. Eastward energy dispersion is apparent in the wave trains, but there is no evidence of phase propagation.

Most of the “teleconnection patterns” identified in previous studies appear among the more prominent loading vectors. However, in most cases the loading vectors occur in pairs, in which the two patterns are in spatial quadrature with one another and account for comparable fractions of the hemispherically integrated variance. It is argued that such patterns should be interpreted as basis functions that can be linearly combined to form a continuum of anisotropic structures. Evidence of the existence of discrete “modal structures” is found only in the interannual (> 180-day period) variability, where two patterns stand out clearly above the background continuum: the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). These patterns leave clear imprints upon the climatological mean variance of the 500 mb height field and the anisotropy tensor of the 500 mb wine field. The western Atlantic (WA) pattern stands out somewhat above the background continuum in the month-to-month (60–180 day period) variability.

Abstract

Low-frequency variability in wintertime 500 mb height is examined, with emphasis on its structure, geographical distribution, and frequency dependence. A 39-year record of 500 mb geopotential height fields from the NMC analyses is time filtered to partition the fluctuations into frequency bands corresponding to periods of 10–60 days, 60–180 days and > 180 days. Winter is defined as the six month period November through April. Variance, teleconnectivity, and anisotropy fields, and selected loading vectors derived from orthogonal and oblique rotations of the eigenvectors of the temporal correlation matrix for each band are shown and discussed.

The variability in all frequency bands exhibits substantial anistropy, with meridionally elongated features arranged as zonally oriented wave trains prevailing over the continents and zonally elongated features organized in the form of north–south oriented dipole patterns prevailing over the oceanic sectors of the hemisphere. The wave trains are most pronounced in the 10–60 day variability, while the dipoles are most pronounced at lower frequencies. Eastward energy dispersion is apparent in the wave trains, but there is no evidence of phase propagation.

Most of the “teleconnection patterns” identified in previous studies appear among the more prominent loading vectors. However, in most cases the loading vectors occur in pairs, in which the two patterns are in spatial quadrature with one another and account for comparable fractions of the hemispherically integrated variance. It is argued that such patterns should be interpreted as basis functions that can be linearly combined to form a continuum of anisotropic structures. Evidence of the existence of discrete “modal structures” is found only in the interannual (> 180-day period) variability, where two patterns stand out clearly above the background continuum: the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). These patterns leave clear imprints upon the climatological mean variance of the 500 mb height field and the anisotropy tensor of the 500 mb wine field. The western Atlantic (WA) pattern stands out somewhat above the background continuum in the month-to-month (60–180 day period) variability.

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