Climate Dynamics

, Volume 43, Issue 5–6, pp 1497–1511 | Cite as

On the misinterpretation of the North Atlantic Oscillation in CMIP5 models

  • Paolo DaviniEmail author
  • Chiara Cagnazzo


The representation of the wintertime North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and its relationship with atmospheric blocking and the Atlantic jet stream is investigated in a set of CMIP5 models. It is shown that some state-of-the-art climate models are unable to correctly simulate the physical processes connected to the NAO. This is especially true for models with a strongly underestimated frequency of high-latitude blocking over Greenland. In these models the first empirical orthogonal function (EOF1) of the Euro-Atlantic sector can represent at least three different categories of dominant modes of variability associated with different prevalent regions of blocking occurrence and jet stream displacements. It is therefore possible to show that such “biased NAOs” are connected with different dynamical processes with respect to the canonical NAO seen in observations. Since the NAO is a widely used concept in scientific community, the consequent “dynamical misinterpretation” of the NAO that can result when climate models are analyzed may have important implications for the NAO-related studies. This may be especially relevant for the ones involving climate scenarios, since these modeled NAOs may react differently to greenhouse gas forcing.


Atlantic jet stream North Atlantic Oscillation CMIP5 Atmospheric blocking 



This work has been funded by the Project of Strategic Interest NextData of the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR) (


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Istituto di Scienze dell’Atmosfera e del Clima, ISAC-CNRTurinItaly
  2. 2.Istituto di Scienze dell’Atmosfera e del Clima, ISAC-CNRRomeItaly

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