, Volume 56, Issue 24, pp 2621-2627,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 06 Aug 2011

Interannual and interdecadal variations in the North Atlantic Oscillation spatial shift

Abstract

The spatial shift of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is analyzed by using the Twentieth Century Reanalysis version 2 dataset and identifying NAO action centers directly on winter mean sea-level pressure (SLP) anomaly maps. The spatial shift of the NAO is characterized by four NAO spatial shift indices: the zonal and meridional shifts of the NAO southern and northern action centers. It is found that the zonal and meridional shift trends of the NAO action centers move along a path of southwest-northwest direction. Spectral analysis shows that the four NAO spatial shift indices have periodicity of 2–6 years and the NAO index has periodicity of 2–3 years in terms of high-frequency variations. On a decadal time scale, the NAO spatial shift indices are closely (positively) related to the NAO index, which is in agreement with previous studies of the relationship between the NAO index and the spatial shift of the NAO pattern. However, there is no relationship between the NAO index and the meridional shift of the northern action center on an interannual time scale. The significant relationship between the NAO index and the interannual variability of NAO spatial shift indices is very likely to be associated with synoptic-scale Rossby wave breaking, which generates surface pressure anomalies and thus affects the phase and pattern of the NAO. The correlations of winter westerly winds over 90°W-0° and the NAO index and the NAO spatial shift indices have a ‘+ − + −’ structure from the Equator to the North Pole. Although there is close correlation between the NAO spatial shift indices and the strength of the zonal winds in the North Atlantic region, the effect of the zonal winds on the NAO spatial shift differs at different latitudes. Hence, the role of the zonal winds is probably a result of the NAO spatial shifts.

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