Changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation over the 20th Century

Outten, Stephen; Davy, Richard

The North Atlantic Oscillation explains a large fraction of the climate variability across the North Atlantic from the eastern seaboard of North America across the whole of Europe. Many studies have linked the North Atlantic Oscillation to climate extremes in this region, especially in winter, which has motivated considerable study of this pattern of variability. However, one overlooked feature of how the North Atlantic Oscillation has changed over time is the explained variance of the pattern. Here we show that there has been a considerable increase in the percentage variance explained by the NAO over the 20 th century from 32 % in 1930 to 53 % by the end of the 20 th century. Whether this change is due to natural variability, a forced response to climate change, or some combination remains unclear. However, we found no evidence for a forced response from an ensemble of 50 CMIP6 models. These models did all show substantial internal variability in the strength of the North Atlantic Oscillation, but it was biased towards being too high compared to the reanalysis and with too little variation over time. Since there is a direct connection between the North Atlantic Oscillation and climate extremes over the region, this has direct consequences for both the long term projection and near term prediction of changes to climate extremes in the region.

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Outten, Stephen / Davy, Richard: Changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation over the 20th Century. 2023. Copernicus Publications.

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