Climate Dynamics

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 161-175

First online:

Winter climate anomalies in Europe and their associated circulation at 500 hPa

  • Klaus FraedrichAffiliated withMeteorologisches Institut, Universität HamburgInstitut für Meteorologic, Freie Universität Berlin
  • , Christian BantzerAffiliated withDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of WashingtonInstitut für Meteorologic, Freie Universität Berlin
  • , Ulrike BurkhardtAffiliated withMeteorologisches Institut, Universität MunchenInstitut für Meteorologic, Freie Universität Berlin

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Regional anomalies of the surface climate over Europe are defined by a simultanous EOF-analysis of the normalized monthly mean sea level pressure, temperature and precipitation fields of 100 winters (December–February, 1887–1986) at 40 stations. The monthly amplitudes of the first EOF (about 25% of the total variance) are used as an index for the monthly winter climate anomaly. They characterize a high (low) pressure cell over central Europe associated with a positive (negative) temperature and precipitation anomaly over northern (central-southern) Europe as indicated by a northward (southward) shift of the tail end of the cross-Atlantic cyclone track. These patterns resemble the phenomenological anticyclonic (cyclonic) Grosswetter classification and the European blocking (enhanced zonal flow) regime. The second EOF is of similar magnitude and gives latitudinal corrections to these two basic flow regimes. The joint probability distribution of both amplitudes shows a weak bimodality mainly associated with the first EOF. Further insight into the underlying physical processes of the climate anomaly patterns in Europe is obtained from the extended Eliassen-Palm flux diagnostics of the barotropic transient eddy-mean flow interaction (Hoskins et al. 1983) and the stationary wave propagation (Plumb 1985). The diagnostics confined to the barotropic components and applied to the regression and the composite anomaly fields of the transient and stationary eddy flows of the 500 hPa geopotential (1946–87, north of 20°N) leads to the following results: (1) The bandpass filtered transient eddy variances of the 500 hPa geopotential show a shift of the cross-Atlantic storm track: In high (low) pressure situations over Europe the cross-Atlantic storm track intensity is enhanced (reduced) and its tail end is shifted northward (remains zonal); the North Pacific storm track extends further (less) eastward and thus closer to the west coast of North America. (2) The extreme high pressure system over Europe tends to be supported by an anomalous transient eddy forcing of the mean flow stream-function: it enhances the zonal wind to its north and generates anticyclonic vorticity about 10° upstream from its center. In the low pressure composite the anomalous cyclonic vorticity is generated reducing the zonal flow to its north. (3) The occurrence (lack) of a strong eastward stationary wave activity flux over the Atlantic is associated with the high (low) pressure situations over Europe. Finally, a positive feedback is conjectured between the stationary wavetrain modifying the tail end of the cross-Atlantic storm track and the transient eddies intensifying this anomaly.