The Pacific–North America–North Atlantic sector in general experienced a dryer and warmer climate in summer during the past 40 years. These changes are partly associated with declining midlatitude synoptic variability in boreal summer, especially over the two ocean basins. A nonmodal instability analysis of the boreal summer background flow is conducted for two periods, 1979–94 and 2000–15, to understand dynamical processes potentially responsible for the observed decline of synoptic variability. The synoptic variability associated with fast, nonmodal growth of atmospheric disturbances shows a decline over northern midlatitudes in the later period, in both a barotropic model and a two-level quasigeostrophic model. These results highlight the importance of the changing summer background flow in contributing to the observed changes in synoptic variability. Also discussed are factors likely associated with background flow changes including sea surface temperature and sea ice change.

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