, Volume 36, Issue 11-12, pp 2113-2128
Date: 01 Jul 2010

North-Atlantic SST amplified recent wintertime European land temperature extremes and trends

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Abstract

Europe has been warming over the past 30 years. In particular all seasonal temperature records have been broken since 2003, which altered socio-economic and environmental systems. Since we expect this trend in both mean and extreme temperatures to continue along the twenty first century under enhanced radiative forcing, it is crucial to understand the underlying mechanisms of such climate variations to help in considering adaptation or mitigation strategies to reduce the impacts of a warmer climate. From a statistical analysis we show that the inter-annual variability of European seasonal temperatures can be reconstructed from North-Atlantic atmospheric circulation only, but not their recent trends and extreme seasons. Adding North-Atlantic sea-surface temperature (SST) as a predictor helps improving the reconstruction, especially in autumn and winter. Sensitivity experiments with the MM5 regional model over 2003–2007 suggest that the anomalous SST enhance European land temperatures through the upper-air advection of heat and water vapor, interacting with radiative fluxes over the continent. This mechanism is pronounced in autumn and winter, where estimates of SST influence as obtained from MM5 are in agreement with those obtained from statistical regressions. We find a lesser SST influence in spring and summer, where local surface and radiative feedbacks are the main amplifiers of recent extremes.