Asymmetry of winter European surface air temperature extremes and the North Atlantic Oscillation

TitleAsymmetry of winter European surface air temperature extremes and the North Atlantic Oscillation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsDiao Y., Xie SP, Luo D.H
JournalJournal of Climate
Date Published2015/01
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0894-8755
Accession NumberWOS:000348220100007
Keywordsblocking; climate extremes; dynamics; flow; modes; part i; wave

Interannual variations of winter warm and cold extremes in Europe are investigated. It is found that the variations are closely connected to the phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The leading EOF of the winter cold (warm) surface air temperature (SAT) extreme frequency shows an enhanced occurrence over western (eastern) Europe. The SAT probability distribution function of the cold extreme winter exhibits both a decrease of the mean SAT and a marked increase in SAT variance, whereas it shows only a shift of the mean SAT to the warmer side for extreme warm winters. This study reveals an asymmetry in location between the cold and warm extremes, caused by the NAO modulations of blocking events and other submonthly variations. Winters with frequent cold extremes are mainly accompanied by the eastern Atlantic blocking. The circulation causes not only marked local cooling but also increased SAT gradient, resulting in both enhanced SAT variance and increased occurrence of cold extremes. By contrast, winters with frequent warm extremes are associated with the northeast-southwest tilted positive NAO pattern. The warm advection by the submonthly perturbations is responsible for the development of warm extremes. The reduced SAT gradient due to enhanced warm advection weakens SAT variance over northern Europe. Thus, the cold extremes are larger in terms of deviations from the monthly mean than the warm extremes.

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