The low-frequency variability in the midlatitudes is described through an analysis of the oscillatory phenomena. In order to isolate nearly periodic components of the atmospheric flow, the multichannel version of the singular spectrum analysis (M-SSA) is developed and applied to an NMC 32-year long set of 700-hPa geopotential heights. In the same way that principal component analysis identifies the spatial patterns dominating the variability, M-SSA identifies dynamically relevant space–time patterns and provides an adaptive filtering technique.
Three major low-frequency oscillations (LFOs) are found, with periods of 70 days, 40–45 days, and 30–35 days. The 70-day oscillation consists of fluctuations in both position and amplitude of the Atlantic jet, with a poleward-propagating anomaly pattern. The 40–45-day oscillation is specific to the Pacific sector and has a pronounced Pacific/North American (PNA) structure in its high-amplitude phase. The 30–35-day mode is confined over the Atlantic region, and consists of the retrogression of a dipole pattern. All these oscillations are shown to be intermittently excited, and M-SSA allows the localization of their spells. The two Atlantic oscillations turn out to be frequently phase locked, so that the 30–35-day mode is likely to be a harmonic of the 70-day mode. The phase locking of the Pacific 40–45-day with the Atlantic 30–35-day oscillations is also studied.
Next, the relationships between LFOs and weather regimes are studied. It is shown in particular that the occurrence of the Euro-Atlantic blocking regime is strongly favored, although not systematically caused, by particular phases of the 30–35-day mode. The LFOs themselves are able to produce high-amplitude persistent anomalies by interfering with each other.
The transition from a zonal regime to a blocking regime is also shown to be highly connected to the life cycle of the 30–35-day mode, indicating that regime transitions do not result only from the random occurrence of particular transient eddy forcing. There are preferred paths between weather regimes. This result leaves us with the hope that at least the large-scale environment-favoring weather regimes may be forecast in the long range. Conditional probability of occurrence of blocking, 30 days ahead, is enhanced, relative to climatological probability, by a factor of 2 if the phase of the 30–35-day oscillation is known. This also emphasizes the necessity of operational models to represent correctly the extratropical LFOs in order to produce skillful long-range and even medium-range forecasts of weather regimes.