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Joe M. Osborne, Mat Collins, James A. Screen, Stephen I. Thomson, and Nick Dunstone

Abstract

Skill in seasonal forecasts in the Northern Hemisphere extratropics is mostly limited to winter. Drivers of summer circulation anomalies over the North Atlantic–European (NAE) sector are poorly understood. Here, we investigate the role of North Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in driving summer atmospheric circulation changes. The summer North Atlantic Oscillation (SNAO), the leading mode of observed summer atmospheric circulation variability in the NAE sector, is correlated with a distinct SST tripole pattern in the North Atlantic. An atmospheric general circulation model is used to test whether there are robust atmospheric circulation responses over the NAE sector to concurrent SSTs related to the SNAO. The most robust responses project onto the summer east Atlantic (SEA) pattern, the second dominant mode of observed summer atmospheric circulation variability in the NAE sector, and are most evident at the surface in response to tropical SSTs and at altitude in response to extratropical SSTs. The tropical-to-extratropical teleconnection appears to be due to Rossby wave propagation from SST anomalies, and in turn precipitation anomalies, in the Caribbean region. We identify key biases in the model, which may be responsible for the overly dominant SEA pattern variability, compared to the SNAO, and may also explain why the responses resemble the SEA pattern, rather than the SNAO. Efforts to eradicate these biases, perhaps achieved by higher-resolution simulations or with improved model physics, would allow for an improved understanding of the true response to North Atlantic SST patterns.

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Wei Chen, Buwen Dong, Laura Wilcox, Feifei Luo, Nick Dunstone, and Eleanor J. Highwood

ABSTRACT

Observations indicate large changes in temperature extremes over China during the last four decades, exhibiting as significant increases in the amplitude and frequency of hot extremes and decreases in the amplitude and frequency of cold extremes. An ensemble of transient experiments with the fully coupled atmosphere–ocean model HadGEM3-GC2, including both anthropogenic forcing and natural forcing, successfully reproduces the spatial pattern and magnitude of observed historical trends in both hot and cold extremes. The model-simulated trends in temperature extremes primarily come from the positive trends in clear-sky longwave radiation, which is mainly due to the increases in greenhouse gases (GHGs). An ensemble of sensitivity experiments with Asian anthropogenic aerosol (AA) emissions fixed at their 1970s levels tends to overestimate the trends in temperature extremes, indicating that local AA emission changes have moderated the trends in these temperature extremes over China. The recent increases in Asian AA drive cooling trends over China by inducing negative clear-sky shortwave radiation directly through the aerosol–radiation interaction, which partly offsets the strong warming effect by GHG changes. The cooling trends induced by Asian AA changes are weaker over northern China during summer, which is due to the warming effect by the positive shortwave cloud radiative effect through the AA-induced atmosphere–cloud feedback. This accounts for the observed north–south gradients of the historical trends in some temperature extremes over China, highlighting the importance of local Asian AA emission changes on spatial heterogeneity of trends in temperature extremes.

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Le Chang, Jing-Jia Luo, Jiaqing Xue, Haiming Xu, and Nick Dunstone

Abstract

Under global warming, surface air temperature has risen rapidly and sea ice has decreased markedly in the Arctic. These drastic climate changes have brought about various severe impacts on the vulnerable environment and ecosystem there. Thus, accurate prediction of Arctic climate becomes more important than before. Here we examine the seasonal to interannual predictive skills of 2-m air temperature (2-m T) and sea ice cover (SIC) over the Arctic region (70°–90°N) during 1980–2014 with a high-resolution global coupled model called the Met Office Decadal Prediction System, version 3 (DePreSys3). The model captures well both the climatology and interannual variability of the Arctic 2-m T and SIC. Moreover, the anomaly correlation coefficient of Arctic-averaged 2-m T and SIC shows statistically significant skills at lead times up to 16 months. This is mainly due to the contribution of strong decadal trends. In addition, it is found that the peak warming trend of Arctic 2-m T lags the maximum decrease trend of SIC by 1 month, in association with the heat flux forcing from the ocean surface to lower atmosphere. While the predictive skill is generally much lower for the detrended variations, we find a close relationship between the tropical Pacific El Niño–Southern Oscillation and the Arctic detrended 2-m T anomalies. This indicates potential seasonal to interannual predictability of the Arctic natural variations.

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Liping Ma, Tim Woollings, Richard G. Williams, Doug Smith, and Nick Dunstone

Abstract

The role of the atmospheric jet stream in driving patterns of surface heat flux, changes in sea surface temperature, and sea ice fraction is explored for the winter North Atlantic. Seasonal time-scale ensemble hindcasts from the Met Office Hadley Centre are analyzed for each winter from 1980 to 2014, which for each year includes 40 ensemble members initialized at the start of November. The spread between ensemble members that develops during a season is interpreted to represent the ocean response to stochastic atmospheric variability. The seasonal coupling between the winter atmosphere and the ocean over much of the North Atlantic reveals anomalies in surface heat loss driving anomalies in the tendency of sea surface temperature. The atmospheric jet, defined either by its speed or latitude, strongly controls the winter pattern of air–sea latent and sensible heat flux anomalies, and subsequent sea surface temperature anomalies. On time scales of several months, the effect of jet speed is more pronounced than that of jet latitude on the surface ocean response, although the effect of jet latitude is important in altering the extent of the ocean subtropical and subpolar gyres. A strong jet or high jet latitude increases sea ice fraction over the Labrador Sea due to the enhanced transport of cold air from west Greenland, while sea ice fraction decreases along the east side of Greenland due either to warm air advection or a strong northerly wind along the east Greenland coast blowing surface ice away from the Fram Strait.

Open access
Blanca Ayarzagüena, Sarah Ineson, Nick J. Dunstone, Mark P. Baldwin, and Adam A. Scaife

Abstract

It is well established that El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) impacts the North Atlantic–European (NAE) climate, with the strongest influence in winter. In late winter, the ENSO signal travels via both tropospheric and stratospheric pathways to the NAE sector and often projects onto the North Atlantic Oscillation. However, this signal does not strengthen gradually during winter, and some studies have suggested that the ENSO signal is different between early and late winter and that the teleconnections involved in the early winter subperiod are not well understood. In this study, we investigate the ENSO teleconnection to NAE in early winter (November–December) and characterize the possible mechanisms involved in that teleconnection. To do so, observations, reanalysis data and the output of different types of model simulations have been used. We show that the intraseasonal winter shift of the NAE response to ENSO is detected for both El Niño and La Niña and is significant in both observations and initialized predictions, but it is not reproduced by free-running Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) models. The teleconnection is established through the troposphere in early winter and is related to ENSO effects over the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea that appear in rainfall and reach the NAE region. CMIP5 model biases in equatorial Pacific ENSO sea surface temperature patterns and strength appear to explain the lack of signal in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea and, hence, their inability to reproduce the intraseasonal shift of the ENSO signal over Europe.

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Doug M. Smith, Nick J. Dunstone, Adam A. Scaife, Emma K. Fiedler, Dan Copsey, and Steven C. Hardiman
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Doug M. Smith, Nick J. Dunstone, Adam A. Scaife, Emma K. Fiedler, Dan Copsey, and Steven C. Hardiman

Abstract

The atmospheric response to Arctic and Antarctic sea ice changes typical of the present day and coming decades is investigated using the Hadley Centre global climate model (HadGEM3). The response is diagnosed from ensemble simulations of the period 1979 to 2009 with observed and perturbed sea ice concentrations. The experimental design allows the impacts of ocean–atmosphere coupling and the background atmospheric state to be assessed. The modeled response can be very different to that inferred from statistical relationships, showing that the response cannot be easily diagnosed from observations. Reduced Arctic sea ice drives a local low pressure response in boreal summer and autumn. Increased Antarctic sea ice drives a poleward shift of the Southern Hemisphere midlatitude jet, especially in the cold season. Coupling enables surface temperature responses to spread to the ocean, amplifying the atmospheric response and revealing additional impacts including warming of the North Atlantic in response to reduced Arctic sea ice, with a northward shift of the Atlantic intertropical convergence zone and increased Sahel rainfall. The background state controls the sign of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) response via the refraction of planetary waves. This could help to resolve differences in previous studies, and potentially provides an “emergent constraint” to narrow the uncertainties in the NAO response, highlighting the need for future multimodel coordinated experiments.

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Chris Kent, Edward Pope, Nick Dunstone, Adam A. Scaife, Zhan Tian, Robin Clark, Lixia Zhang, Jemma Davie, and Kirsty Lewis

Abstract

The Northeast Farming Region (NFR) of China is a critically important area of maize cultivation accounting for ~30% of national production. It is predominantly rain fed, meaning that adverse climate conditions such as drought can significantly affect productivity. Forewarning of such events, to improve contingency planning, could therefore be highly beneficial to the agricultural sector. For this, an improved estimate of drought exposure, and the associated large-scale circulation patterns, is of critical importance. We address these important questions by employing a large ensemble of initialized climate model simulations. These simulations provide 80 times as many summers as the equivalent observational dataset and highlight several limitations of the recent observational record. For example, the chance of a drought greater in area than any current observed event is approximately 5% per year, suggesting the risk of a major drought is significantly underestimated if based solely on recent events. The combination of a weakened East Asian jet stream and intensified subpolar jet are found to be associated with severe NFR drought through enhanced upper-level convergence and anomalous descent, reducing moisture and suppressing precipitation. We identify a strong 500-hPa geopotential height anomaly dipole pattern as a useful metric to identify this mechanism for relevance to seasonal predictability. This work can inform policy planning and decision-making through an improved understanding of the near-term climate exposure and form the basis of new climate services.

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Doug M. Smith, Nick J. Dunstone, Rosie Eade, David Fereday, Leon Hermanson, James M. Murphy, Holger Pohlmann, Niall Robinson, and Adam A. Scaife
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Susanna Corti, Tim Palmer, Magdalena Balmaseda, Antje Weisheimer, Sybren Drijfhout, Nick Dunstone, Wilco Hazeleger, Jürgen Kröger, Holger Pohlmann, Doug Smith, Jin-Song von Storch, and Bert Wouters

Abstract

The impact of initial conditions relative to external forcings in decadal integrations from an ensemble of state-of-the-art prediction models has been assessed using specifically designed sensitivity experiments (SWAP experiments). They consist of two sets of 10-yr-long ensemble hindcasts for two initial dates in 1965 and 1995 using either the external forcings from the “correct” decades or swapping the forcings between the two decades. By comparing the two sets of integrations, the impact of external forcing versus initial conditions on the predictability over multiannual time scales was estimated as the function of lead time of the hindcast. It was found that over time scales longer than about 1 yr, the predictability of sea surface temperatures (SSTs) on a global scale arises mainly from the external forcing. However, the correct initialization has a longer impact on SST predictability over specific regions such as the North Atlantic, the northwestern Pacific, and the Southern Ocean. The impact of initialization is even longer and extends to wider regions when below-surface ocean variables are considered. For the western and eastern tropical Atlantic, the impact of initialization for the 700-m heat content (HTC700) extends to as much as 9 years for some of the models considered. In all models the impact of initial conditions on the predictability of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) is dominant for the first 5 years.

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