Atmospheric circulation variability in the North-Atlantic-European area since the mid-seventeenth century

Institute of Geography, University of Würzburg, Am Hubland, D-97074 Würzburg, Germany; Institute of Geography, University of Berne, Hallerstr. 12, CH-3012 Bern, and National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) in Climate, Erlachstr. 9a, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
Climate Dynamics (Impact Factor: 4.23). 01/2003; 20(4):341-352. DOI: 10.1007/s00382-002-0278-0

ABSTRACT Based on monthly mean sea level pressure grids objectively reconstructed by Luterbacher et al. variations of dynamical modes of the atmospheric circulation for January and July are described by novel indices for running 31-year periods between 1659 and 1999. These indices reflect the continuous evolution of the atmospheric circulation not only with regard to frequency changes of major dynamical modes but also in terms of internal changes within each mode concerning both dynamic (vorticity, intensity) and climatic properties (Central European temperature and precipitation during occurrence of each mode, respectively). Results indicate the great importance of within-mode variations: the zonal circulation mode in January, varying in frequency with long-term cycles, primarily changed its dynamic and climatic properties (towards higher indices) during the transition from the Little Ice Age to modern conditions between 1800 and 1930. Within the Russian High mode of January a change in preference from easterly to westerly patterns above Central Europe occurred around 1850. For July, a striking frequency maximum of the westerly mode at the end of the eighteenth century coincided with a period of marked summer warmth in Central Europe due to negative/positive deviations in vorticity/temperature during occurrence of this mode. The long-term evolution in July indicates a general increase of anticyclonic conditions strengthening during the last 50 years towards a unique phenomenon within the last centuries. The strong increase in the winter-time westerly circulation during the last decades, however, does not appear extraordinary in view of the low-frequency variations of this mode.

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