Climate Dynamics

, Volume 50, Issue 7–8, pp 2845–2865 | Cite as

Modes of interannual variability in northern hemisphere winter atmospheric circulation in CMIP5 models: evaluation, projection and role of external forcing

  • Carsten S. Frederiksen
  • Kairan Ying
  • Simon Grainger
  • Xiaogu Zheng


Models from the coupled model intercomparison project phase 5 (CMIP5) dataset are evaluated for their ability to simulate the dominant slow modes of interannual variability in the Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation 500 hPa geopotential height in the twentieth century. A multi-model ensemble of the best 13 models has then been used to identify the leading modes of interannual variability in components related to (1) intraseasonal processes; (2) slowly-varying internal dynamics; and (3) the slowly-varying response to external changes in radiative forcing. Modes in the intraseasonal component are related to intraseasonal variability in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and North American, and Eurasian regions and are little affected by the larger radiative forcing of the Representative Concentration Pathways 8.5 (RCP8.5) scenario. The leading modes in the slow-internal component are related to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, Pacific North American or Tropical Northern Hemisphere teleconnection, the North Atlantic Oscillation, and the Western Pacific teleconnection pattern. While the structure of these slow-internal modes is little affected by the larger radiative forcing of the RCP8.5 scenario, their explained variance increases in the warmer climate. The leading mode in the slow-external component has a significant trend and is shown to be related predominantly to the climate change trend in the well mixed greenhouse gas concentration during the historical period. This mode is associated with increasing height in the 500 hPa pressure level. A secondary influence on this mode is the radiative forcing due to stratospheric aerosols associated with volcanic eruptions. The second slow-external mode is shown to be also related to radiative forcing due to stratospheric aerosols. Under RCP8.5 there is only one slow-external mode related to greenhouse gas forcing with a trend over four times the historical trend.


Modes of interannual variability Atmospheric circulation Northern hemisphere CMIP5 models Climate change 



CMIP5 data is available from The WMGHG time series are available from We acknowledge the World Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modelling groups for producing and making available their model output. For CMIP, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals. We acknowledge the resources and support of the National Computational Infrastructure at the Australian National University for maintaining the CMIP5 data at the Australian Earth Systems Grid node. J. Sisson provided invaluable assistance in pre-processing the CMIP5 data. KY was supported by the National Key Research and Development Progarm (2016YFA0600402) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (41405090). KY would also like to thank the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, Monash University for allowing her to visit and conduct this research with CSF.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Bureau of MeteorologyMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.The School of Earth, Atmosphere and EnvironmentMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  3. 3.CAS Key Laboratory of Regional Climate-Environment Research for Temperate East Asia, Institute of Atmospheric PhysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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