Quasi-Stationary and Transient Periods in the Northern Hemisphere Circulation Series

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  • 1 Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

In this paper, persistence characteristics of the Northern Hemisphere (NH) extratropical circulation have been studied. A simple method, based on the speed with which the atmosphere moves in the phase space (PSS, measured by 2-day lag distances), was adopted to partition the circulation data series into 5-day or longer quasi-stationary periods (QSP) and alternating transition periods (TP). The method is based on the assumptions that large-scale circulation regimes often develop abruptly and that during their development transient activity is either unchanged or enhanced. The partitioning results reveal that a whole cycle of QSP and TP on the hemisphere has an average duration of 20 days with considerable amount of variability. The average length of a QSP-TP cycle is not sensitive to changes of a relatively wide range in the PSS limit value employed in the method. In this range of limit values, the average length of the cycle changes less than 17%, while the ratio between the length of QSP and TP increases dramatically from 0.73 to 4.42.

The partitioning results are statistically very similar for three complementary sectors of the hemisphere. However, we found very little synchronicity in the changes in the three sectors. The correlation between changes in any of the three sectors and on the whole hemisphere is at a much higher level, around 0.75. Although the length of the cycle on height values at individual grid points is in the range we can expect from a red-noise process, this cycle length is considerably (20%) shorter than that in a larger region or on the whole hemisphere. This is an indication that the persistence characteristics of larger-scale circulation, due to spatial interactions, show more persistence than, and cannot be well modeled by, a simple autoregressive process.

Statistical tests indicate that the hemispheric QSPs are largely temporally uncorrelated and cannot be results of a random partitioning method. All these results suggest that the basic assumption about the regime-like behavior of the atmosphere is at least partially true: large-scale regime changes are indeed accompanied with higher speed of changes in the circulation phase space.

Further evidence is presented that the circulation patterns in the phase space are distributed as a multivariate normal distribution in a phase-average sense (i.e., as a function of distance from the mean). Hence, the characteristic distance between neighboring circulation patterns is smaller close to the climate mean than farther away from it. As a consequence that had to be considered in this study, the day-to-day changes in the circulation (an inverse measure of persistence) are also smaller close to the climate mean. It is also argued that phase-average multinormality is the primary characteristic of the distribution of circulation patterns in the phase space and any secondary characteristic (local density maximum) should be searched for and interpreted in this context.

Abstract

In this paper, persistence characteristics of the Northern Hemisphere (NH) extratropical circulation have been studied. A simple method, based on the speed with which the atmosphere moves in the phase space (PSS, measured by 2-day lag distances), was adopted to partition the circulation data series into 5-day or longer quasi-stationary periods (QSP) and alternating transition periods (TP). The method is based on the assumptions that large-scale circulation regimes often develop abruptly and that during their development transient activity is either unchanged or enhanced. The partitioning results reveal that a whole cycle of QSP and TP on the hemisphere has an average duration of 20 days with considerable amount of variability. The average length of a QSP-TP cycle is not sensitive to changes of a relatively wide range in the PSS limit value employed in the method. In this range of limit values, the average length of the cycle changes less than 17%, while the ratio between the length of QSP and TP increases dramatically from 0.73 to 4.42.

The partitioning results are statistically very similar for three complementary sectors of the hemisphere. However, we found very little synchronicity in the changes in the three sectors. The correlation between changes in any of the three sectors and on the whole hemisphere is at a much higher level, around 0.75. Although the length of the cycle on height values at individual grid points is in the range we can expect from a red-noise process, this cycle length is considerably (20%) shorter than that in a larger region or on the whole hemisphere. This is an indication that the persistence characteristics of larger-scale circulation, due to spatial interactions, show more persistence than, and cannot be well modeled by, a simple autoregressive process.

Statistical tests indicate that the hemispheric QSPs are largely temporally uncorrelated and cannot be results of a random partitioning method. All these results suggest that the basic assumption about the regime-like behavior of the atmosphere is at least partially true: large-scale regime changes are indeed accompanied with higher speed of changes in the circulation phase space.

Further evidence is presented that the circulation patterns in the phase space are distributed as a multivariate normal distribution in a phase-average sense (i.e., as a function of distance from the mean). Hence, the characteristic distance between neighboring circulation patterns is smaller close to the climate mean than farther away from it. As a consequence that had to be considered in this study, the day-to-day changes in the circulation (an inverse measure of persistence) are also smaller close to the climate mean. It is also argued that phase-average multinormality is the primary characteristic of the distribution of circulation patterns in the phase space and any secondary characteristic (local density maximum) should be searched for and interpreted in this context.

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