The dominant mode of wintertime interdecadal covariability between subseasonal surface air temperature (SAT) variability and midtropospheric circulation over the North Atlantic sector is identified through maximum covariance analysis applied to century-long reanalysis data. This mode highlights a tendency for subseasonal temperature variability over Europe and eastern North America to be enhanced during decades when the negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) prevails. This interdecadal NAO is characterized by a stationary Rossby wave train that originates from the subtropical Atlantic, propagates northward into the subpolar Atlantic, and finally refracts toward Europe and the Middle East. A decadal increase in precipitation in the subtropics under the enhanced supply of heat and moisture from the Gulf Stream and its surroundings appears to act as a source for this wave train. The influence of the interdecadal NAO on subseasonal SAT variability is explained primarily by the modulated efficiency of baroclinic conversion of available potential energy from the background atmospheric flow to subseasonal eddies. The combination of enhanced subseasonal variability and low winter-mean temperature anomalies associated with the negative phase of the interdecadal NAO increases the frequency of cold extremes affecting Europe and the eastern United States.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science