, Volume 15, Issue 12, pp 953-960

The North Atlantic Oscillation as an indicator for greenhouse-gas induced regional climate change

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The time-dependent variability of the North Atlantic Oscillation is examined in an observational data set and several model data sets with greenhouse-gas-induced external forcings. The index of the North Atlantic Oscillation state is derived from the time series of mean latitudinal position and central pressure of the Icelandic Low and the Azores High considering the synchronous meridional shifting of the two pressure systems. While the North Atlantic Oscillation is characterized by intensive interannual variability, the low-pass filtered index time series shows a decadal component with a time scale of about 50 y within almost 120 y of observation. Since the late 1960s we observe a positive trend and a transition to a strong positive phase of the phenomenon indicative of a pre-dominantly zonal circulation over the North Atlantic. This trend occurs equally in the observations and all examined model data sets with increasing greenhouse-gas-concentration and atmosphere-ocean coupling. We find statistical evidence that the radiative forcing by increasing CO2 concentration has a significant influence on the simulated variability of the North Atlantic Oscillation on time scales of 60 y and longer, independent of the initial conditions and the model version. The seasonal response is strongest in late summer and winter. The interannual variability of the North Atlantic Oscillation states on time scales less than 10 y decreases synchronously with the positive trend of its decadal-mean state implying a stabilization of its present and future zonal state.

Received: 4 January 1999 / Accepted: 16 June 1999