Skip to main content

Witnessing North Atlantic westerlies variability from ships’ logbooks (1685–2008)

Abstract

A monthly index based on the persistence of the westerly winds over the English Chanel is constructed for 1685–2008 using daily data from ships’ logbooks and comprehensive marine meteorological datasets. The so-called Westerly Index (WI) provides the longest instrumental record of atmospheric circulation currently available. Anomalous WI values are associated with spatially coherent climatic signals in temperature and precipitation over large areas of Europe, which are stronger for precipitation than for temperature and in winter and summer than in transitional seasons. Overall, the WI series accord with the known European climatic history, and reveal that the frequency of the westerlies in the eastern Atlantic during the twentieth century and the Late Maunder Minimum was not exceptional in the context of the last three centuries. It is shown that the WI provides additional and complementary information to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) indices. The analysis of WI series during the industrial era indicates an overall good agreement with the winter and high-summer NAO, with the exception of several multidecadal periods of weakened correlation. These decoupled periods between the frequency and the intensity of the zonal flow are interpreted on the basis of several sources of non-stationarity affecting the centres of the variability of the North Atlantic and their teleconnections. Comparisons with NAO reconstructions and long instrumental indices extending back to the seventeenth century suggest that similar situations have occurred in the past, which call for caution when reconstructing the past atmospheric circulation from climatic proxies. The robustness and extension of its climatic signal, the length of the series and its instrumental nature make the WI an excellent benchmark for proxy calibration in Europe and Greenland.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

References

  1. Ansell TJ, Jones PD, Allan RJ (2006) Daily mean sea level pressure reconstructions for the European–North Atlantic region for the period 1850–2003. J Clim 19:2717–2742

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Barnston AG, Livezey RE (1987) Classification, sesonality and persistence of low-frequency atmospheric circulation patterns. Mon Weather Rev 115:1083–1126

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Beck C, Jacobeit J, Jones PD (2007) Frequency and within-type variations of large-scale circulation types and their effects on low-frequency climate variability in Central Europe since 1780. Int J Climatol 27:473–491

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bladé I, Liebmann B, Fortuny D, van Oldenborgh GJ (2012) Observed and simulated impacts of the summer NAO in Europe: implications for projected drying in the Mediterranean region. Clim Dyn. doi:10.1007/s00382-011-1195-x

    Google Scholar 

  5. Briffa KR, van der Schrier G, Jones P (2009) Wet and dry summers in Europe since 1750: evidence of increasing drought. Int J Climatol 29:1894–1905. doi:10.1002/joc.1836

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Brown TJ, Hall BL (1999) The use of t values in climatological composite analyses. J Clim 12:2941–2944

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Casty C, Handorf D, Raible CC, González-Rouco JF, Weisheimer A, Xoplaki E, Luterbacher J, Dethloff K, Wanner H (2005) Recurrent climate winter regimes in reconstructed and modeled 500 hPa geopotential height fields over the North Atlantic/European sector 1659–1990. Clim Dyn 24:809–822. doi:10.1007/s00382-004-0496-8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Casty C, Raible CC, Stocker TF, Wanner H, Luterbacher J (2007) A European pattern climatology 1766–2000. Clim Dyn 29:791–805

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Chow GC (1960) Tests of equality between sets of coefficients in two linear regressions. Econometrica 28:591–605

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Compo GP, Whitaker JS, Sardeshmukh PD et al (2011) The twentieth century reanalysis project. Q J Roy Meteorol Soc 137:1–28. doi:10.1002/qj.776

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Cook ER, D’Arrigo RD, Mann ME (2002) A well-verified, multiproxy reconstruction of the winter North Atlantic Oscillation Index since A.D. 1400. J Clim 15:1754–1764

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Cornes RC, Jones PD, Briffa KR, Osborn TJ (2012) Estimates of the North Atlantic Oscillation back to 1692 using a Paris–London westerly index. Int J Climatol. doi:10.1002/joc.3416

    Google Scholar 

  13. Cullen H, D’Arrigo R, Cook E, Mann ME (2001) Multiproxy-based reconstructions of the North Atlantic Oscillation over the past three centuries. Paleoceanography 15:27–39

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. D’Arrigo R, Seager R, Smerdon JE, LeGrande AN, Cook ER (2011) The anomalous winter of 1783–1784: was the Laki eruption or an analog of the 2009–2010 winter to blame? Geophys Res Lett 38:L05706. doi:10.1029/2011GL046696

    Google Scholar 

  15. Dobrovolný P, Moberg A, Brázdil R, Pfister C, Glaser R, Wilson R, van Engelen A, Limanówka D, Kiss A, Halícková M, Macková J, Riemann D, Luterbacher J, Böhm R (2010) Monthly and seasonal temperature reconstructions for Central Europe derived from documentary evidence and instrumental records since AD 1500. Clim Change. doi:10.1007/s10584-009-9724-x

    Google Scholar 

  16. Feldstein SB (2003) The dynamics of NAO teleconnection pattern growth and decay. Q J Roy Meteorol Soc 129:901–924

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Feldstein SB (2007) The dynamics of the North Atlantic Oscillation during the summer season. Q J Roy Meteorol Soc 133:1509–1518

    Google Scholar 

  18. Folland C, Knight J, Linderholm H, Fereday D, Ineson S, Hurrell JW (2009) The summer North Atlantic Oscillation: past, present and future. J Clim 22:1082–1103. doi:10.1175/2008JCLI2459.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Gallego D, García-Herrera R, Ribera P, Jones PD (2005) Seasonal mean pressure reconstruction for the North Atlantic (1750–1850) based on early marine data. Clim Past 1:19–33

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. García-Herrera R, Wilkinson C, Koek FB, Prieto MR, Calvo N, Hernandez E (2005a) Description and general background to ships’ logbooks as a source of climatic data. Clim Change 73:13–36

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. García-Herrera R, Können GP, Wheeler DA, Prieto MR, Jones PD, Koek FB (2005b) CLIWOC: A Climatological Database for the World’s Oceans 1750–1854. Clim Change 73:1–12

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Glueck MF, Stockton CW (2001) Reconstruction of the North Atlantic Oscillation, 1429–1983. Int J Climatol 21:1453–1465

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Harris I, Jones PD, Osborn TJ, Lister DH (2012) Updated high-resolution grids of monthly climatic observations—the CRU TS3.10 dataset. Submitted to Int J Climatol

  24. Hurrell JW (1995) Decadal trends in the North Atlantic Oscillation and relationships to regional temperature and Precipitation. Science 269:676–679

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Hurrell J, Deser C (2009) North Atlantic climate variability: the role of the North Atlantic Oscillation. J Mar Syst 78:28–41. doi:10.1016/j.jmarsys.2008.11.026

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Jackson A, Jonkers AR, Walker MR (2000) Four centuries of geomagneticsecular variation from historical records. Philos Trans R Soc Lond (A) 358:957–990

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Jacobeit J, Jönsson P, Bärring L, Beck C, Ekström M (2001) Zonal indices for Europe 1780–1995 and running correlations with temperature. Clim Change 48:219–241

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Jacobeit J, Wanner H, Luterbacher J, Beck C, Philipp A, Sturm K (2003) Atmospheric circulation variability in the North-Atlantic-European area since the mid-seventeenth century. Clim Dyn 20:341–352

    Google Scholar 

  29. Jones PD, Salmon M (2005) Preliminary reconstructions of the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Southern Oscillation Index from measures of wind strength and direction taken during the CLIWOC period. Clim Change 73:131–154

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Jones PD, Jonsson T, Wheeler D (1997) Extension to the North Atlantic Oscillation using early instrumental pressure observations from Gibraltar and South-West Iceland. Int J Climatol 17:1433–1450

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Jones PD, Davies TD, Lister DH, Slonosky V, Jonsson T, Bärring L, Jönsson P, Maheras P, Kolyva-Machera F, Barriendos M, Martín-Vide J, Rodríguez R, Alcoforado MJ, Wanner H, Pfister C, Luterbacher J, Rickli R, Schuepbach E, Kaas E, Schmith T, Jacobeit J, Beck C (1999) Monthly mean pressure reconstructions for Europe for the 1780–1995 period. Int J Climatol 19:347–364

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Jones PD, Osborn TJ, Briffa KR (2001) The evolution of climate over the last millennium. Science 292:662–667

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Jones PD, Briffa KR, Osborn TJ et al (2009) High-resolution paleoclimatology of the last millennium: a review of current status and future prospects. The Holocene 19:3–49

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Jung T, Hilmer M, Ruprecht E, Kleppek S, Gulev SK, Zolina O (2003) Characteristics of the recent eastward shift of interannual NAO variability. J Clim 16:3371–3382

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Kington J (1980) Daily weather mapping from 1781. Clim Change 3:7–36

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Küttel M, Xoplaki E, Gallego D, Luterbacher J, García-Herrera R, Allan R, Barriendos M, Jones PD, Wheeler D, Wanner H (2010) The importance of ship log data: reconstructing North Atlantic, European and Mediterranean sea level pressure fields back to 1750. Clim Dyn 34:1115–1128. doi:10.1007/s00382-009-0577-9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Küttel M, Luterbacher J, Wanner H (2011) Multidecadal changes in winter circulation-climate relationship in Europe: frequency variations, within-type modifications, and long-term trends. Clim Dyn 36:957–972. doi:10.1007/s00382-009-0737-y

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Lamb H (1995) Climate, history and the modern world, 2nd edn. Routledge, London

    Google Scholar 

  39. Luterbacher J, Schmutz C, Gyalistras D, Xoplaki E, Wanner H (1999) Reconstruction of monthly NAO and EU indices back to AD 1675. Geophys Res Lett 26:2745–2748

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Luterbacher J, Xoplaki E, Dietrich D, Jones PD, Davies TD, Portis D, González-Rouco JF, von Storch H, Gyalistras D, Casty C, Wanner H (2001a) Extending North Atlantic Oscillation reconstructions back to 1500. Atmos Sci Lett. doi:10.1006/asle.2001.0044

    Google Scholar 

  41. Luterbacher J, Rickli R, Xoplaki E, Tinguely C, Beck C, Pfister C, Wanner H (2001b) The Late Maunder Minimum (1675–1715)—a key period for studying decadal scale climatic change in Europe. Clim Change 49:441–462

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Luterbacher J, Dietrich D, Xoplaki E, Grosjean M, Wanner H (2004) European seasonal and annual temperature variability, trends, and extremes since 1500. Science 303:1499–1503

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Manley G (1974) Central England temperatures: 1659–1973. Q J Roy Meteorol Soc 100:389–405. doi:10.1002/qj.49710042511

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Moses T, Kiladis GN, Diaz HF, Barry RG (1987) Characteristics and frequency of reversals in mean sea level pressure in the North Atlantic sector and their relationship to long-term temperature trends. J Climatol 7:13–30

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Namias J (1950) The index cycle and its role in the general circulation. J Meteorl 7(2):130–139

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Pauling A, Luterbacher J, Casty C, Wanner H (2006) Five hundred years of gridded high-resolution precipitation reconstructions over Europe and the connection to large-scale circulation. Clim Dyn 26:387–405

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Percival DB (2008) Analysis of geophysical time series using discrete wavelet transforms: an overview. In: Donner RV, Barbosa SM (eds) Nonlinear time series analysis in the geosciences. Applications in climatology, geodynamics, and solar-terrestrial physics, vol 112. Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg, pp 61–79

  48. Philipp A, Della-Marta PM, Jacobeit J, Fereday DR, Jones PD, Moberg A, Wanner H (2007) Long-term variability of daily North Atlantic-European pressure patterns since 1850 classified by simulated annealing clustering. J Clim 20:4065–4095

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Portis DH, Walsh JE, EL Hamly M, Lamb PJ (2001) Seasonality of the North Atlantic Oscillation. J Clim 14(9):2069–2078

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Pozo-Vázquez D, Esteban-Parra MJ, Rodrigo FS, Castro-Díez Y (2001) A study of NAO variability and its possible non-linear influences on European surface temperature. Clim Dyn 17:701–715

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Rudolf B, Schneider U (2005) Calculation of gridded precipitation data for the global land-surface using in situ gauge observations. In: Proceedings of the 2nd workshop of the international precipitation working group IPWG, Monterey October 2004, EUMETSAT, ISBN 92-9110-070-6, ISSN 1727-432X, 231-247

  52. Schmutz C, Luterbacher J, Gyalistras D, Xoplaki E, Wanner H (2000) Can we trust proxy-based NAO index reconstructions? Geophys Res Lett 27(8):1135–1138

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Slonosky VC, Yiou P (2002) Does the NAO index represent zonal flow? The influence of the NAO on North Atlantic surface temperature. Clim Dyn 19:17–30

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Slonosky V, Jones P, Davies T (2000) Variability of the surface atmospheric circulation over Europe, 1774–1995. Int J Climatol 20:1875–1897

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Slonosky VC, Jones PD, Davies TD (2001) Instrumental pressure observations and atmospheric circulation from the 17th and 18th centuries: London and Paris. Int J Climatol 21(3):285–298. doi:10.1002/joc.611

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Timm O, Ruprecht E, Kleppek S (2004) Scale-dependent reconstruction of the NAO index. J Clim 17(11):2157–2169

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Trigo RM, Osborn TJ, Corte-Real JM (2002) The North Atlantic Oscillation influence on Europe: climate impacts and associated physical mechanisms. Clim Res 20:9–17

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Trouet V, Esper J, Graham NE, Baker A, Scourse JD, Frank DC (2009) Persistent positive North Atlantic Oscillation mode dominated the Medieval Climate Anomaly. Science 324:78–80

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Vicente-Serrano SM, López-Moreno JI (2008) The nonstationary influence of the North Atlantic Oscillation on European precipitation. J Geophys Res 113:D20120. doi:10.1029/2008JD010382

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Vinther BM, Andersen K, Hansen A, Schmith T, Jones P (2003) Improving the Gibraltar/Reyjavik NAO Index. Geophys Res Lett 30:2222. doi:10.1029/2003GL018220

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Wanner H, Pfister C, Brázdil R, Frich P, Frydendahl K, Jónsson T, Kington J, Lamb HH, Rosenørn S, Wishman E (1995) Wintertime European circulation patterns during the Late Maunder Minimum cooling period (1675–1704). Theoret Appl Climatol 51:167–175. doi:10.1007/BF00867443

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Wheeler D, Garcia-Herrera R (2008) Ship’s logbooks in climatological research: reflections and prospects. Ann NY Acad Sci 1146:1–15

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Wheeler D, Wilkinson C (2005) The determination of logbook wind force and weather terms: the English case. Clim Change 73:160–185

    Google Scholar 

  64. Wheeler D, García-Herrera R, Wilkinson CW, Ward C (2009) Atmospheric circulation and storminess derived from Royal Navy logbooks: 1685 to 1750. Clim Change. doi:10.1007/s10584-009-9732-x

    Google Scholar 

  65. Worley SJ, Woodruff SD, Reynolds RW, Lubker SJ, Lott N (2005) ICOADS release 2.1 data and products. Int J Climatol 25:823–842. doi:10.1002/joc.1166

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Xoplaki E, Luterbacher J, Paeth H, Dietrich D, Steiner N, Grosjean M, Wanner H (2005) European spring and autumn temperature variability and change of extremes over the last half millennium. Geophys Res Lett 32:L15713. doi:10.1029/2005GL023424

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Zeileis A, Kleiber C, Krämer W, Hornik K (2003) Testing and dating of structural changes in practice. Comput Stat Data Anal 44:109–123

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This work has been supported by the “Salva-Sinobas” project (ref. 200800050083542) funded by the Ministry of the Environment, Rural and Maritime Affairs of Spain and by the Portuguese Science Foundation (FCT) through the ENAC PTDC/AAC-CLI/103567/2008 project. The early English Royal Navy logbook data were secured as part of the EU FP6 Integrated Project 017008: “European Climate for the Past Millennium”. The authors thank Ricardo M. Trigo for his useful discussion on this manuscript and The National Archives (Kew, Surrey, UK). Two anonymous reviewers provided valuable comments that contributed to improve the manuscript.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to David Barriopedro.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Barriopedro, D., Gallego, D., Alvarez-Castro, M.C. et al. Witnessing North Atlantic westerlies variability from ships’ logbooks (1685–2008). Clim Dyn 43, 939–955 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-013-1957-8

Download citation

Keywords

  • Atmospheric circulation index
  • Climate variability and change
  • Early instrumental data
  • North Atlantic Oscillation