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  • Author or Editor: Maarten H. P. Ambaum x
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Maarten H. P. Ambaum

Abstract

A large fraction of papers in the climate literature includes erroneous uses of significance tests. A Bayesian analysis is presented to highlight the meaning of significance tests and why typical misuse occurs. The significance statistic is not a quantitative measure of how confident one can be of the “reality” of a given result. It is concluded that a significance test very rarely provides useful quantitative information.

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Panos J. Athanasiadis
and
Maarten H. P. Ambaum

Abstract

The contributions of different time scales to extratropical teleconnections are examined. By applying empirical orthogonal functions and correlation analyses to reanalysis data, it is shown that eddies with periods shorter than 10 days have no linear contribution to teleconnectivity. Instead, synoptic variability follows wavelike patterns along the storm tracks, interpreted as propagating baroclinic disturbances. In agreement with preceding studies, it is found that teleconnections such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the Pacific–North America (PNA) pattern occur only at low frequencies, typically for periods more than 20 days. Low-frequency potential vorticity variability is shown to follow patterns analogous to known teleconnections but with shapes that differ considerably from them. It is concluded that the role, if any, of synoptic eddies in determining and forcing teleconnections needs to be sought in nonlinear interactions with the slower transients. The present results demonstrate that daily variability of teleconnection indices cannot be interpreted in terms of the teleconnection patterns, only the slow part of the variability.

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Maarten H. P. Ambaum
and
Brian J. Hoskins

Abstract

Using monthly mean data, daily data, and theoretical arguments, relationships between surface pressure variations associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), tropopause height, and the strength of the stratospheric vortex are established. An increase in the NAO index leads to a stronger stratospheric vortex, about 4 days later, as a result of increased equatorward refraction of upward-propagating Rossby waves. At tropopause level the effects of the enhanced NAO index and stratospheric polar vortex are opposite, resulting in a lower tropopause over Iceland and a higher tropopause over the Arctic. The raising of the Arctic tropopause leads to a stretching and spinup of the tropospheric column and is therefore associated with a lowering of the surface pressure near the North Pole. For monthly mean data it is found that a standard deviation increase in the NAO index is associated with a 10% increase in the strength of the stratospheric vortex, as measured by potential vorticity at 500 K. A simple theoretical model predicts that this is associated with about 300-m elevation of the Arctic tropopause, as is observed, and a 5-hPa lowering of the surface pressure at the North Pole. The effects of the spinup of the tropospheric column may project on the NAO pattern so that the stratosphere acts as an integrator of the NAO index.

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Maarten H. P. Ambaum
,
Brian J. Hoskins
, and
David B. Stephenson

Abstract

The definition and interpretation of the Arctic oscillation (AO) are examined and compared with those of the North Atlantic oscillation (NAO). It is shown that the NAO reflects the correlations between the surface pressure variability at its centers of action, whereas this is not the case for the AO. The NAO pattern can be identified in a physically consistent way in principal component analysis applied to various fields in the Euro-Atlantic region. A similar identification is found in the Pacific region for the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern, but no such identification is found here for the AO. The AO does reflect the tendency for the zonal winds at 35° and 55°N to anticorrelate in both the Atlantic and Pacific regions associated with the NAO and PNA. Because climatological features in the two ocean basins are at different latitudes, the zonally symmetric nature of the AO does not mean that it represents a simple modulation of the circumpolar flow. An increase in the AO or NAO implies strong, separated tropospheric jets in the Atlantic but a weakened Pacific jet. The PNA has strong related variability in the Pacific jet exit, but elsewhere the zonal wind is similar to that related to the NAO. The NAO-related zonal winds link strongly through to the stratosphere in the Atlantic sector. The PNA-related winds do so in the Pacific, but to a lesser extent. The results suggest that the NAO paradigm may be more physically relevant and robust for Northern Hemisphere variability than is the AO paradigm. However, this does not disqualify many of the physical mechanisms associated with annular modes for explaining the existence of the NAO.

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Maarten H. P. Ambaum
,
Brian J. Hoskins
, and
David B. Stephenson
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Adam H. Monahan
,
John C. Fyfe
,
Maarten H. P. Ambaum
,
David B. Stephenson
, and
Gerald R. North

Abstract

Empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis is a powerful tool for data compression and dimensionality reduction used broadly in meteorology and oceanography. Often in the literature, EOF modes are interpreted individually, independent of other modes. In fact, it can be shown that no such attribution can generally be made. This review demonstrates that in general individual EOF modes (i) will not correspond to individual dynamical modes, (ii) will not correspond to individual kinematic degrees of freedom, (iii) will not be statistically independent of other EOF modes, and (iv) will be strongly influenced by the nonlocal requirement that modes maximize variance over the entire domain. The goal of this review is not to argue against the use of EOF analysis in meteorology and oceanography; rather, it is to demonstrate the care that must be taken in the interpretation of individual modes in order to distinguish the medium from the message.

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