Changes in Atmospheric Blocking Circulations Linked with Winter Arctic Warming: A New Perspective

Dehai Luo Key Laboratory of Regional Climate-Environment for Temperate East Asia, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

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Xiaodan Chen Key Laboratory of Regional Climate-Environment for Temperate East Asia, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

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Aiguo Dai Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York

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Ian Simmonds School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Abstract

Winter atmospheric blocking circulations such as Ural blocking (UB) have been recognized to play an important role in recent winter Eurasian cooling. Observational analyses performed here reveal that the winter warming in the Barents–Kara Seas (BKS) related to the recent decline of sea ice concentration (SIC) has been accompanied by a large increase in the mean duration of the UB events. A new energy dispersion index (EDI) is designed to help reveal the physics behind this association and show how the BKS warming can influence the mean duration of UB events. This EDI mainly reflects the role of the meridional potential vorticity (PV) gradient in the blocking persistence and it characterizes the changes in energy dispersion and nonlinearity strength of blocking. The meridional PV gradient combines the relative vorticity gradient (related to the nonuniform meridional shear of the mean zonal wind) and the mean zonal wind strength. It is revealed that the BKS warming leads to a significant lengthening of the UB duration because of weakened energy dispersion and intensified nonlinearity of the UB through reduced meridional PV gradient. Furthermore, the duration of the UB is found to depend more strongly on the meridional PV gradient than the mean westerly wind strength, although the meridional PV gradient includes the effect of mean westerly wind strength. Thus, the meridional PV gradient is a better indicator of the change in the blocking duration related to Arctic warming than the zonal wind strength index.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dr. Dehai Luo, ldh@mail.iap.ac.cn

Abstract

Winter atmospheric blocking circulations such as Ural blocking (UB) have been recognized to play an important role in recent winter Eurasian cooling. Observational analyses performed here reveal that the winter warming in the Barents–Kara Seas (BKS) related to the recent decline of sea ice concentration (SIC) has been accompanied by a large increase in the mean duration of the UB events. A new energy dispersion index (EDI) is designed to help reveal the physics behind this association and show how the BKS warming can influence the mean duration of UB events. This EDI mainly reflects the role of the meridional potential vorticity (PV) gradient in the blocking persistence and it characterizes the changes in energy dispersion and nonlinearity strength of blocking. The meridional PV gradient combines the relative vorticity gradient (related to the nonuniform meridional shear of the mean zonal wind) and the mean zonal wind strength. It is revealed that the BKS warming leads to a significant lengthening of the UB duration because of weakened energy dispersion and intensified nonlinearity of the UB through reduced meridional PV gradient. Furthermore, the duration of the UB is found to depend more strongly on the meridional PV gradient than the mean westerly wind strength, although the meridional PV gradient includes the effect of mean westerly wind strength. Thus, the meridional PV gradient is a better indicator of the change in the blocking duration related to Arctic warming than the zonal wind strength index.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dr. Dehai Luo, ldh@mail.iap.ac.cn
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