, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 53-66

The influence of oceanic conditions on the hot European summer of 2003

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Abstract

The summer of 2003 was the hottest on record throughout much of Europe. Understanding how the event developed and the factors that contributed to it may help us improve seasonal forecasting models and assess the risk of such events in the future. This study uses atmosphere-only model integrations and observed data to investigate the potential predictability of the climate anomalies, and in particular the impact that the warming in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea had on the development of the temperature anomalies. The model results suggest that the temperature anomalies were potentially predictable and that both Indian Ocean and Mediterranean sea surface temperature anomalies contributed to the development of the observed warm and dry anomalies over Europe. Furthermore, it was found that, in the model, the Mediterranean anomalies contributed most strongly to the warming in June and July and the Indian Ocean anomalies enabled the positive temperature anomalies to persist into August. Previously published work has described the role of the Indian monsoon in modulating the seasonal cycle in rainfall over Europe. Comparison with this work suggests a mechanism by which warming in the Indian Ocean may have contributed to the persistence of the temperature and precipitation anomalies into August.