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Anna Maidens
Alberto Arribas
Adam A. Scaife
Craig MacLachlan
Drew Peterson
, and
Jeff Knight


December 2010 was unusual both in the strength of the negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) intense atmospheric blocking and the associated record-breaking low temperatures over much of northern Europe. The negative North Atlantic Oscillation for November–January was predicted in October by 8 out of 11 World Meteorological Organization Global Producing Centres (WMO GPCs) of long-range forecasts. This paper examines whether the unusual strength of the NAO and temperature anomaly signals in early winter 2010 are attributable to slowly varying boundary conditions [El Niño–Southern Oscillation state, North Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) tripole, Arctic sea ice extent, autumn Eurasian snow cover], and whether these were modeled in the Met Office Global Seasonal Forecasting System version 4 (GloSea4). Results from the real-time forecasts showed that a very robust signal was evident in both the surface pressure fields and temperature fields by the beginning of November. The historical reforecast set (hindcasts), used to calibrate and bias correct the real-time forecast, showed that the seasonal forecast model reproduces at least some of the observed physical mechanisms that drive the NAO. A series of ensembles of atmosphere-only experiments was constructed, using forecast SSTs and ice concentrations from November 2010. Each potential mechanism in turn was systematically isolated and removed, leading to the conclusion that the main mechanism responsible for the successful forecast of December 2010 was anomalous ocean heat content and associated SST anomalies in the North Atlantic.

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