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Improving Climate Change Detection through Optimal Seasonal Averaging: The Case of the North Atlantic Jet and European Precipitation

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
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Abstract

The detection of anthropogenic climate change can be improved by recognizing the seasonality in the climate change response. This is demonstrated for the North Atlantic jet [zonal wind at 850 hPa (U850)] and European precipitation responses projected by the climate models from phase 5 of CMIP (CMIP5). The U850 future response is characterized by a marked seasonality: an eastward extension of the North Atlantic jet into Europe in November–April and a poleward shift in May–October. Under the RCP8.5 scenario, the multimodel mean response in U850 in these two extended seasonal means emerges by 2035–40 for the lower-latitude features and by 2050–70 for the higher-latitude features, relative to the 1960–90 climate. This is 5–15 years earlier than when evaluated in the traditional meteorological seasons (December–February and June–August), and it results from an increase in the signal-to-noise ratio associated with the spatial coherence of the response within the extended seasons. The annual mean response lacks important information on the seasonality of the response without improving the signal-to-noise ratio. The same two extended seasons are demonstrated to capture the seasonality of the European precipitation response to climate change and to anticipate its emergence by 10–20 years. Furthermore, some of the regional responses (such as the Mediterranean precipitation decline and the U850 response in North Africa in the extended winter) are projected to emerge by 2020–25, according to the models with a strong response. Therefore, observations might soon be useful to test aspects of the atmospheric circulation response predicted by some of the CMIP5 models.

Corresponding author address: Giuseppe Zappa, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Earley Gate, P.O. Box 243, Reading RG6 6BB, United Kingdom. E-mail: g.zappa@reading.ac.uk

Abstract

The detection of anthropogenic climate change can be improved by recognizing the seasonality in the climate change response. This is demonstrated for the North Atlantic jet [zonal wind at 850 hPa (U850)] and European precipitation responses projected by the climate models from phase 5 of CMIP (CMIP5). The U850 future response is characterized by a marked seasonality: an eastward extension of the North Atlantic jet into Europe in November–April and a poleward shift in May–October. Under the RCP8.5 scenario, the multimodel mean response in U850 in these two extended seasonal means emerges by 2035–40 for the lower-latitude features and by 2050–70 for the higher-latitude features, relative to the 1960–90 climate. This is 5–15 years earlier than when evaluated in the traditional meteorological seasons (December–February and June–August), and it results from an increase in the signal-to-noise ratio associated with the spatial coherence of the response within the extended seasons. The annual mean response lacks important information on the seasonality of the response without improving the signal-to-noise ratio. The same two extended seasons are demonstrated to capture the seasonality of the European precipitation response to climate change and to anticipate its emergence by 10–20 years. Furthermore, some of the regional responses (such as the Mediterranean precipitation decline and the U850 response in North Africa in the extended winter) are projected to emerge by 2020–25, according to the models with a strong response. Therefore, observations might soon be useful to test aspects of the atmospheric circulation response predicted by some of the CMIP5 models.

Corresponding author address: Giuseppe Zappa, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Earley Gate, P.O. Box 243, Reading RG6 6BB, United Kingdom. E-mail: g.zappa@reading.ac.uk
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