, Volume 24, Issue 2-3, pp 297-307
Date: 18 Jan 2005

A world without Greenland: impacts on the Northern Hemisphere winter circulation in low- and high-resolution models

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To investigate the effect of Greenland’s orography on the northern hemisphere winter circulation experiments with an atmospheric GCM are conducted: a perturbed integration where standard orography is reduced to sea level in the Greenland area is compared to a standard orography control integration. The outcome of these experiments suggests that the existence of high mountains at Greenland causes a reinforcement of the stationary wave field in the Atlantic sector, colder temperatures to the west of Greenland and warmer temperatures to the east and south, over the North Atlantic. The impact on the flow field cannot be understood in the framework of standing Rossby waves, but it indicates a resonance between remotely forced stationary waves and local (thermo-) dynamics. The pattern of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), in particular the northern centre, lies further to the east in the flat-Greenland experiment compared to the control run and the observations. Together with the fact that the climatological low-pressure system around Iceland hardly shifts, this suggests that the location of the NAO is not necessarily tied to the time mean pressure distributions. Considering the model resolution as a parameter, experiments with a high resolution (T106) suggest that the near-field changes are represented sufficiently by a T42 resolution, a standard resolution used in state-of-the-art coupled climate models. In contrast, far-field changes depend critically on model resolution. Hemispheric circulation and temperature changes differ substantially from low to high resolution, and generalized statements about the impact of Greenland’s orography cannot be made.