The North Atlantic Oscillation and oceanic precipitation variability

Annarita Mariotti, Phillip Arkin

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Global North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) oceanic precipitation features in the latter half of the twentieth century are documented based on the intercomparison of multiple state-of-the-art precipitation datasets and the analysis of the NAO atmospheric circulation and SST anomalies. Most prominent precipitation anomalies occur over the ocean in the North Atlantic, where in winter a "quadrupole-like" pattern is found with centers in the western tropical Atlantic, sub-tropical Atlantic, high-latitude eastern Atlantic and over the Labrador Sea. The extent of the sub-tropical and high-latitude center and the amount of explained variance (over 50%) are quite remarkable. However, the tropical Atlantic center is probably the most intriguing feature of this pattern apparently linking the NAO with ITCZ variability. In summer, the pattern is "tripole-like" with centers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea/Baltic Sea and in the sub-polar Atlantic. In the eastern Indian Ocean, the correlation is positive in winter and negative in summer, with some link to ENSO variability. The sensitivity of these patterns to the choice of the NAO index is minor in winter while quite important in summer. Interannual NAO precipitation anomalies have driven similar fresh water variations in these "key" regions. In the sub-tropical and high-latitude Atlantic in winter precipitation anomalies have been roughly 15 and 10% of climatology per unit change of the NAO, respectively. Decadal changes of the NAO during the last 50 years have also influenced precipitation and fresh water flux at these time-scales, with values lower (higher) than usual in the high-latitude eastern North Atlantic (Labrador Sea) in the 1960s and the late 1970s, and an opposite situation since the early 1980s; in summer the North Sea/Baltic region has been drier than usual during the period 1965-1975 when the NAO was generally positive. © Springer-Verlag 2006.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35 - 51
Number of pages17
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science

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