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The Variability of the Atlantic Storm Track and the North Atlantic Oscillation: A Link between Intraseasonal and Interannual Variability

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  • 1 RCE-TEA and LASG, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing, and Physical Oceanography Laboratory, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, China
  • | 2 College of Physical and Environmental Oceanography, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, China
  • | 3 Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
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Abstract

The winter-mean North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index has been mostly positive since the 1980s, with a linear upward trend during the period from 1978 to 1990 (P1) and a linear downward trend during the period from 1991 to 2009 (P2). Further calculations show that the Atlantic storm-track eddy activity is more intense during P2 than during P1, which is statistically significant at the 90% confidence level for a t test. This study proposes a hypothesis that the change in the trend of the positive NAO index from P1 to P2 may be associated with the marked intensification of the Atlantic storm track during P2.

A generalized nonlinear NAO model is used to explain the observed trend of the positive NAO index within P2. It is found that even when the Atlantic storm-track eddies are less intense, a positive-phase NAO event can form under the eddy forcing if the planetary-scale wave has an initial value with a low-over-high dipole structure during P1 and P2. A blocking flow can occur in the downstream side (over Europe) of the Atlantic basin as a result of the energy dispersion of Rossby waves during the decay of the positive-phase NAO event. This blocking flow does not strictly correspond to a negative-phase NAO event because the blocking stays mainly over the European continent. However, when the Atlantic storm-track eddies are rather strong, the blocking flow occurring over the European continent is enhanced and can retrograde into the Atlantic region and finally become a long-lived negative-phase NAO event. In this case, the NAO event can transit from the positive phase to the negative phase. Thus, the winter-mean NAO index during P2 will inevitably decline because of the increase in days of negative-phase NAO events in winter because the Atlantic storm track exhibits a marked intensification in the time interval. The transition of the NAO event from the positive phase to the negative phase can also be observed only when the downstream development of the Atlantic storm-track eddy activity is rather prominent.

Thus, it appears that there is a physical link between intraseasonal and interannual time scales of the NAO when the Atlantic storm track exhibits an interannual variability.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Dehai Luo, RCE-TEA, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing, China. Email: ldh@mail.iap.ac.cn

Abstract

The winter-mean North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index has been mostly positive since the 1980s, with a linear upward trend during the period from 1978 to 1990 (P1) and a linear downward trend during the period from 1991 to 2009 (P2). Further calculations show that the Atlantic storm-track eddy activity is more intense during P2 than during P1, which is statistically significant at the 90% confidence level for a t test. This study proposes a hypothesis that the change in the trend of the positive NAO index from P1 to P2 may be associated with the marked intensification of the Atlantic storm track during P2.

A generalized nonlinear NAO model is used to explain the observed trend of the positive NAO index within P2. It is found that even when the Atlantic storm-track eddies are less intense, a positive-phase NAO event can form under the eddy forcing if the planetary-scale wave has an initial value with a low-over-high dipole structure during P1 and P2. A blocking flow can occur in the downstream side (over Europe) of the Atlantic basin as a result of the energy dispersion of Rossby waves during the decay of the positive-phase NAO event. This blocking flow does not strictly correspond to a negative-phase NAO event because the blocking stays mainly over the European continent. However, when the Atlantic storm-track eddies are rather strong, the blocking flow occurring over the European continent is enhanced and can retrograde into the Atlantic region and finally become a long-lived negative-phase NAO event. In this case, the NAO event can transit from the positive phase to the negative phase. Thus, the winter-mean NAO index during P2 will inevitably decline because of the increase in days of negative-phase NAO events in winter because the Atlantic storm track exhibits a marked intensification in the time interval. The transition of the NAO event from the positive phase to the negative phase can also be observed only when the downstream development of the Atlantic storm-track eddy activity is rather prominent.

Thus, it appears that there is a physical link between intraseasonal and interannual time scales of the NAO when the Atlantic storm track exhibits an interannual variability.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Dehai Luo, RCE-TEA, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing, China. Email: ldh@mail.iap.ac.cn

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