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Positive and Negative Phases of the Wintertime North Atlantic Oscillation and Drought Occurrence over Europe: A Multitemporal-Scale Approach

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  • 1 Climatic Change and Climate Impacts Group, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland, and Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología, CSIC, Zaragoza, Spain
  • 2 Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología, CSIC, Zaragoza, Spain
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Abstract

In this study, droughts are analyzed using the standardized precipitation index (SPI) at different time scales for all of Europe over the period 1901–2000. The SPI is calculated at different time scales (1–12 months), as are the average values that correspond to negative and positive phases of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The responses of droughts to the phases of the NAO vary spatially, but the response also depends on the month of the year and the time scale of the analysis. During the positive/negative phases, negative/positive SPI values are generally recorded in southern Europe, with the opposite pattern recorded in northern Europe. In certain regions, significant differences in the SPI are also recorded during spring, summer, and even autumn. In several regions, the magnitude of the average SPI anomalies is noticeably different for the positive and negative phases of the NAO, indicating the asymmetric response of droughts to the NAO. The unstable response of drought occurrence is also demonstrated, at different time scales, to positive and negative phases of the NAO throughout the twentieth century. During the second half of the twentieth century, there is a strengthening of the influence of the positive phases of the NAO on droughts. In contrast, the negative phases show a weaker influence on the SPI during the second half of the twentieth century. This pattern is related to changes in the wintertime sea level pressure fields associated with positive and negative phases of the NAO.

Corresponding author address: J. Ignacio López-Moreno, Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología (CSIC), Campus de Aula Dei, P.O. Box 202, Zaragoza 50080, Spain. Email: nlopez@ipe.csic.es

Abstract

In this study, droughts are analyzed using the standardized precipitation index (SPI) at different time scales for all of Europe over the period 1901–2000. The SPI is calculated at different time scales (1–12 months), as are the average values that correspond to negative and positive phases of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The responses of droughts to the phases of the NAO vary spatially, but the response also depends on the month of the year and the time scale of the analysis. During the positive/negative phases, negative/positive SPI values are generally recorded in southern Europe, with the opposite pattern recorded in northern Europe. In certain regions, significant differences in the SPI are also recorded during spring, summer, and even autumn. In several regions, the magnitude of the average SPI anomalies is noticeably different for the positive and negative phases of the NAO, indicating the asymmetric response of droughts to the NAO. The unstable response of drought occurrence is also demonstrated, at different time scales, to positive and negative phases of the NAO throughout the twentieth century. During the second half of the twentieth century, there is a strengthening of the influence of the positive phases of the NAO on droughts. In contrast, the negative phases show a weaker influence on the SPI during the second half of the twentieth century. This pattern is related to changes in the wintertime sea level pressure fields associated with positive and negative phases of the NAO.

Corresponding author address: J. Ignacio López-Moreno, Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología (CSIC), Campus de Aula Dei, P.O. Box 202, Zaragoza 50080, Spain. Email: nlopez@ipe.csic.es

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