Relative Importance of Northern Hemisphere Circulation Modes in Predicting Regional Climate Change

Monika Rauthe Leibniz Institut für Atmosphärenphysik, Kühlungsborn, Germany

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Heiko Paeth Meteorologisches Institut, Universität Bonn, Bonn, Germany

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Abstract

The Northern Hemisphere annular mode (NAM), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and Aleutian low (AL) are known to be the most prominent components of Northern Hemisphere (NH) near-surface climate variability. In a tremendous number of studies, the impact of these circulation features on regional climate has been demonstrated. More recently, research has gone into the connection between the NAO and NAM and into the physical meaning of the latter. However, the relevance of those circulation modes for climatological issues may also be inferred from another nondynamical point of view: their statistical relationship to various climate parameters. This study comprises two steps: 1) qualifying and quantifying the relative importance of NH circulation modes with respect to twentieth-century near-surface temperature and precipitation, using stepwise multiple regression with cross validation; and 2) using predictor–predictand relationships to access the contributions of each circulation mode to regional climate change in the middle of the twenty-first century, given multimodel predictions of the circulation modes' responses to increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) and sulfate aerosol (SUL) concentrations.

Altogether, the NAM, NAO, and AL account locally for up to 75% of the total interannual temperature and rainfall variability over NH continents. Over the major part of the NH, the NAM appears to be the most important predictor. In some parts of the North Atlantic, temperature and rainfall are more closely linked to the NAO, while the North Pacific is clearly dominated by the AL dynamics. In general, the NAO and AL have a more regionally confined influence.

Climate change experiments mostly predict an intensification of the NAM and AL under GHG+SUL forcing, while the NAO response is much less consistent with different models and generally undergoes no long-term changes. This leads to substantial contributions to temperature and rainfall anomalies, especially over the NH landmasses. Temperature changes amount to ±1 K over large parts of Russia, North America, and the North Pacific. The major precipitation changes occur over the North Pacific, the North Atlantic, and Scandinavia. This circulation-induced contribution accounts for a considerable part of total expected change in these regions. Given its distinct trend, the NAM plays the main role, except over the Pacific Ocean and North America, where the AL is driving regional climate anomalies. Thus, whether physically relevant or not, the NAM is an appropriate statistical indicator of NH regional climate change.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Heiko Paeth, Meteorologisches Institut, Universität Bonn, Auf dem Hügel 20, D-53121 Bonn, Germany. Email: hpaeth@uni-bonn.de

Abstract

The Northern Hemisphere annular mode (NAM), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and Aleutian low (AL) are known to be the most prominent components of Northern Hemisphere (NH) near-surface climate variability. In a tremendous number of studies, the impact of these circulation features on regional climate has been demonstrated. More recently, research has gone into the connection between the NAO and NAM and into the physical meaning of the latter. However, the relevance of those circulation modes for climatological issues may also be inferred from another nondynamical point of view: their statistical relationship to various climate parameters. This study comprises two steps: 1) qualifying and quantifying the relative importance of NH circulation modes with respect to twentieth-century near-surface temperature and precipitation, using stepwise multiple regression with cross validation; and 2) using predictor–predictand relationships to access the contributions of each circulation mode to regional climate change in the middle of the twenty-first century, given multimodel predictions of the circulation modes' responses to increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) and sulfate aerosol (SUL) concentrations.

Altogether, the NAM, NAO, and AL account locally for up to 75% of the total interannual temperature and rainfall variability over NH continents. Over the major part of the NH, the NAM appears to be the most important predictor. In some parts of the North Atlantic, temperature and rainfall are more closely linked to the NAO, while the North Pacific is clearly dominated by the AL dynamics. In general, the NAO and AL have a more regionally confined influence.

Climate change experiments mostly predict an intensification of the NAM and AL under GHG+SUL forcing, while the NAO response is much less consistent with different models and generally undergoes no long-term changes. This leads to substantial contributions to temperature and rainfall anomalies, especially over the NH landmasses. Temperature changes amount to ±1 K over large parts of Russia, North America, and the North Pacific. The major precipitation changes occur over the North Pacific, the North Atlantic, and Scandinavia. This circulation-induced contribution accounts for a considerable part of total expected change in these regions. Given its distinct trend, the NAM plays the main role, except over the Pacific Ocean and North America, where the AL is driving regional climate anomalies. Thus, whether physically relevant or not, the NAM is an appropriate statistical indicator of NH regional climate change.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Heiko Paeth, Meteorologisches Institut, Universität Bonn, Auf dem Hügel 20, D-53121 Bonn, Germany. Email: hpaeth@uni-bonn.de

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