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European Climate Extremes and the North Atlantic Oscillation

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  • 1 Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Met Office, Exeter, United Kingdom
  • | 2 School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
  • | 3 Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • | 4 Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Met Office, Exeter, United Kingdom
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Abstract

The authors estimate the change in extreme winter weather events over Europe that is due to a long-term change in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) such as that observed between the 1960s and 1990s. Using ensembles of simulations from a general circulation model, large changes in the frequency of 10th percentile temperature and 90th percentile precipitation events over Europe are found from changes in the NAO. In some cases, these changes are comparable to the expected change in the frequency of events due to anthropogenic forcing over the twenty-first century. Although the results presented here do not affect anthropogenic interpretation of global and annual mean changes in observed extremes, they do show that great care is needed to assess changes due to modes of climate variability when interpreting extreme events on regional and seasonal scales. How changes in natural modes of variability, such as the NAO, could radically alter current climate model predictions of changes in extreme weather events on multidecadal time scales is also discussed.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Adam A. Scaife, Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Met Office, Exeter EX1 3PB, United Kingdom. Email: adam.scaife@metoffice.gov.uk

Abstract

The authors estimate the change in extreme winter weather events over Europe that is due to a long-term change in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) such as that observed between the 1960s and 1990s. Using ensembles of simulations from a general circulation model, large changes in the frequency of 10th percentile temperature and 90th percentile precipitation events over Europe are found from changes in the NAO. In some cases, these changes are comparable to the expected change in the frequency of events due to anthropogenic forcing over the twenty-first century. Although the results presented here do not affect anthropogenic interpretation of global and annual mean changes in observed extremes, they do show that great care is needed to assess changes due to modes of climate variability when interpreting extreme events on regional and seasonal scales. How changes in natural modes of variability, such as the NAO, could radically alter current climate model predictions of changes in extreme weather events on multidecadal time scales is also discussed.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Adam A. Scaife, Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Met Office, Exeter EX1 3PB, United Kingdom. Email: adam.scaife@metoffice.gov.uk

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