Climatic Change

, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 315–338 | Cite as

Impact of the North Atlantic Oscillation on Middle Eastern Climate and Streamflow

  • Heidi M. Cullen
  • Alexey Kaplan
  • Phillip A. Arkin
  • Peter B. deMenocal


Interannual to decadal variations in Middle Eastern temperature, precipitationand streamflow reflect the far-field influence of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), a dominant mode of Atlantic sector climate variability. Using a new sea surface temperature (SST) based index of the NAO and availablestreamflow data from five Middle Eastern rivers, we show that the first principal component of December through March streamflow variability reflects changes in the NAO. However, Middle East rivers have two primary flooding periods.The first is rainfall-driven runoff from December through March, regulated on interannual to decadal timescales by the NAO as reflected in local precipitation and temperature.The second period, from April through June, reflects spring snowmelt and contributes in excess of 50% of annual runoff.This period, known locally as the khamsin, displays no significantNAO connections and a less direct relationship with local climatic factors, suggesting that streamflow variability during this period reflects land-cover change, possibly related to agriculture and hydropower generation, and snowmelt.


Streamflow Middle East North Atlantic Oscillation Middle Eastern Decadal Variation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Algaze, C.: 2001, 'Initial Social Complexity in Southwestern Asia — The Mesopotamian Advantage', Current Anthropology 42, 199-233.Google Scholar
  2. Alheit, J. and Hagen, E.: 1997, 'Long-term Climate Forcing of European Herring and Sardine Populations', Fish. Oceanogr. 6, 130-139.Google Scholar
  3. Barlow, M., Cullen, H., and Lyon, B.: 2002, 'Drought in Southwest and Central Asia: La Niña, the Warm Pool, and Indian Ocean Precipitation', J. Climate, in press.Google Scholar
  4. Beniston, M.: 1997, 'Variations of Snow Depth and Duration in the Swiss Alps over the Last 50 Years: Links to Changes in Large-Scale Climatic Forcings', Clim. Change 36, 281-300.Google Scholar
  5. Blunier, T., Chappellaz, J., Stauffer, B., and Raynaud, D.: 1995, 'Variations in Atmospheric Methane Concentration during the Holocene Epoch', Nature 374, 46-49.Google Scholar
  6. Bond, G., Showers, W., Cheseby, M., Lotti, R., Almasi, P., de Menocal, P., Priore, P., Cullen, H., Hajdas, I., and Bonani, G.: 1997, 'A Pervasive Millennial-scale Cycle in North Atlantic Holocene and Glacial Climates', Science 278, 1257-1266.Google Scholar
  7. Bretherton, C. S., Smith, C., and Wallace, J. M.: 1992, 'An Intercomparison of Methods for Finding Coupled Patterns in Climate Data', J. Climate 5, 541-560.Google Scholar
  8. Cane, M., Eshel, G., and Buckland, R.: 1994, 'Forecasting Zimbabwean Maize Yield Using Eastern Equatorial Pacific Sea Surface Temperature', Nature 370, 204-207.Google Scholar
  9. Cane, M. A. and Zebiak, S. E.: 1985, 'A Theory for the El Niño and the Southern Oscillation', Science 228, 1085-1087.Google Scholar
  10. Cullen, H. M. and deMenocal, P.: 2000a, 'North Atlantic Influence on Tigris-Euphrates Streamflow', Int. J. Clim. 20, 853-863.Google Scholar
  11. Cullen, H. M. and deMenocal, P.: 2000b, 'The Possible Role of Climate in the Collapse of the Akkadian Empire: Evidence from the Deep Sea', Geology 28, 379-382.Google Scholar
  12. Dai, A., Fung, I., and DelGenio, A.: 1997, 'Surface Observed Global Land Precipitation Variations during 1900-88', J. Climate 10, 2943-2962.Google Scholar
  13. Delworth, T. L. and Mann, M. E.: 2000, 'Observed and Simulated Multidecadal Variability in the Northern Hemisphere', Clim. Dyn. 16, 661-676.Google Scholar
  14. Deser, C. and Blackmon, M. L.: 1993, 'Surface Climate Variations over the North Atlantic Ocean during Winter: 1900-1989', J. Climate 6, 1743-1753.Google Scholar
  15. DOE: 2001, 'Country Analysis Briefs', in Energy Information Administration.Google Scholar
  16. Elfatih, A. and Eltahir, B.: 1996, 'El Niño and the Natural Variability in the Flow of the Nile River', Water Resour. Res. 32, 131-137.Google Scholar
  17. Eshel, G., Farrell, C. M., and Farrell, B.: 2000, 'Forecasting Eastern Mediterranean Droughts', Mon. Wea. Rev. 128, 3618-3630.Google Scholar
  18. Evans, M. N., Kaplan, A., and Cane, M. A.: 2000, 'Intercomparison of Coral Oxygen Isotope Data and Historical Sea Surface Temperature (SST): Potential for Coral-based SST Field Reconstructions', Paleoceanography 15, 551-563.Google Scholar
  19. Fromentin, J.M. and Planque, B.: 'Calanus and Environment in the Eastern North Atlantic: Influence of the North Atlantic Oscillation on C-finmarchicus and C-helolandicus', Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 134, 111-118.Google Scholar
  20. Hillel, D.: 1994, Rivers of Eden: The Struggle for Water and the Quest for Peace in the Middle East, Oxford University Press, 1st edn.Google Scholar
  21. Hoerling, M., Whitaker, J., Kumar, A., and Wang, W.: 2001, 'The Midlatitude Warming during 1998-2000', Geophys. Res. Lett. 28, 755-758.Google Scholar
  22. Hurrell, J., Kushnir, Y., and Visbeck, M.: 2001, 'The North Atlantic Oscillation', Science 291, 603-605.Google Scholar
  23. Hurrell, J. and Van Loon, H.: 1997, 'Decadal Variations in Climate Associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation', Clim. Change 36, 301-326.Google Scholar
  24. Hurrell, J. W.: 1995, 'Decadal Trends in the North Atlantic Oscillation: Regional Temperatures and Precipitation', Science 269, 676-679.Google Scholar
  25. Janowiak, J. and Xie, P.: 1999, 'CAMS-OPI: A Global Satellite-raingauge Merged Product for Realtime Precipitation Monitoring Applications', J. Climate 12, 3335-3342.Google Scholar
  26. Kaplan, A., Cane, M., Kushnir, Y., Clement, A., Blumenthal, B., and Rajagopolan, B.: 1998, 'Analyses of Global Sea Surface Temperature 1856-1991', J. Geophys. Res. Oceans 103, 18567-18589.Google Scholar
  27. Kaplan, A., Kushnir, Y., Cane, M., and Blumenthal, M.: 1997, 'Reduced Space Optimal Analysis for Historical Data Sets: 136 Years of Atlantic Sea Surface Temperatures', J. Geophys. Res. 102, 27835-27860.Google Scholar
  28. Keigwin, L.: 1996, 'The Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period in the Sargasso Sea', Science 274, 1504-1508.Google Scholar
  29. Kolars, J.: 1997, 'The Tigris-Euphrates Rivers', Water Internat. 22, 49-53.Google Scholar
  30. Kushnir, Y.: 1994, 'Interdecadal Variations in North Atlantic Sea Surface Temperature and Associated Atmospheric Conditions', J. Climate 7, 141-157.Google Scholar
  31. Mann, M.: 2002, 'Large-scale Climate Variability and Connections with the Middle East in Past Centuries', Clim. Change, this issue.Google Scholar
  32. Mason, S., Goddard, L., Graham, N., Yulaeva, E., Sun, L., and Arkin, P.: 1999, 'The IRI Seasonal Climate Prediction system and the 1997/1998 El Niño Event', Bull. Amer. Meteorol. Soc. 80, 1853-1873.Google Scholar
  33. Molinari, R., Mayer, D., Festa, J., and Bezdek, H.: 1997, 'Multiyear Variability in the Near-Surface Temperature Structure of the Midlatitude Western North Atlantic Ocean', J. Geophys. Res. 102, 3267-3278.Google Scholar
  34. O'Brien, S., Mayewski, P., Meeker, L., Meese, D., Twickler, M., and Whitlow, S.: 1995, 'Complexity of Holocene Climate as Reconstructed from a Greenland Ice Core', Science 270, 1962-1964.Google Scholar
  35. Philander, S.: 1983, 'El Niño Southern Oscillation Phenomena', Nature 302, 295-301.Google Scholar
  36. Philander, S.: 1985, 'El Niño and La Niña', J. Atmos. Sci. 42, 2652-2662.Google Scholar
  37. Rasmusson, E. M. and Carpenter, T. H.: 1982, 'Variations in Tropical Sea Surface Temperature and Surface Wind Fields Associated with the Southern Oscillation/El Niño', Mon. Wea. Rev. 110, 354-384.Google Scholar
  38. Rverdin, G., Cayan, D., and Kushnir, Y.: 1997, 'Decadal Variability of Hydrography in the Upper Northern Atlantic in 1948-1990', J. Geophys. Res. 102, 8505-8531.Google Scholar
  39. Rodwell, M., Rowell, D. P., and Folland, C. K.: 1999, 'Oceanic Forcing of the Wintertime North Atlantic Oscillation and European Climate', Nature 398, 320-323.Google Scholar
  40. Seager R., Kushnir, Y., Visbeck, M., Naik, N., Miller, J., Krahmann, G., and Cullen, H.: 2000, 'Causes of Atlantic Ocean Climate Variability between 1958 and 1998', J. Clim. 13, 2845-2862.Google Scholar
  41. Shapland, G.: 1997, Rivers of Discord: International Water Disputes of the Middle East, St.Martin's Press, 1st edn.Google Scholar
  42. Simpson, H., Cane, M., Herczeg, A., Zebiak, S., and Simpson, J.: 1993a, 'Annual Discharge in Southeastern Australia Related to El Niño Southern Oscillation Forecasts of Sea Surface Temperatures', Water Resour. Res. 29, 3671-3680.Google Scholar
  43. Simpson, H., Cane, M., Lin, S., Zebiak, S., and Herczeg, A.: 1993b, 'Forecasting Annual Discharge of River Murray, Australia, from a Geophysical Model of ENSO', J. Climate 6, 386-391.Google Scholar
  44. Soffer, A.: 1999, Rivers of Fire: The Conflict over Water in the Middle East, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1st edn.Google Scholar
  45. Turkes, M.: 1996a, 'Meteorological Drought in Turkey: A Historical Perspective 1930-1993', Drought Network News 8, 17-21.Google Scholar
  46. Turkes, M.: 1996b, 'Spatial and Temporal Analysis of Annual Rainfall Variations in Turkey', Int. J. Clim. 16, 1057-1076.Google Scholar
  47. Weiss, H.: 1997, 'Archaeology in Syria', Amer. J. Archaeology 101, 97-148.Google Scholar
  48. Weiss, H., Courty, M., Wetterstrom, W., Guichard, F., Senior, L., Meadow, R., and Curnow, A.: 1993, 'The Genesis and Collapse of 3rd Millennium North Mesopotamian Civilization', Science 261, 994-1004.Google Scholar
  49. Xie, P. and Arkin, P.: 1996, 'Global Monthly Precipitation Using Gauge Observations, Satellite Estimates, and Numerical Model Predictions', J. Climate 9, 840-858.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heidi M. Cullen
    • 1
  • Alexey Kaplan
    • 2
  • Phillip A. Arkin
    • 3
  • Peter B. deMenocal
    • 2
  1. 1.National Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderU.S.A.
  2. 2.Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia UniversityPalisadesU.S.A
  3. 3.National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationSilver SpringU.S.A

Personalised recommendations