Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 4, 6127-6148, 2004
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in ACP.
The North Atlantic variability structure, storm tracks, and precipitation depending on the polar vortex strength
K. Walter1 and H.-F. Graf1,2
1Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology, Bundesstrasse 54, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany
2Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Cambridge, Dept. Geography, Cambridge, CB2 3EN, UK

Abstract. There is ample evidence that the state of the northern polar stratospheric vortex in boreal winter influences tropospheric variability. Therefore, the main teleconnection patterns over the North Atlantic are defined separately for winter episodes in which the zonal mean wind at 50 hPa and 65° N is above or below the critical Rossby velocity for zonal planetary wave one. It turns out that the teleconnection structure in the middle and upper troposphere differs considerably between the two regimes of the polar vortex, while this is not the case at sea level. If the "polar vortex is strong", there exists "one" meridional dipole structure of geopotential height in the upper and middle troposphere, which is situated in the central North Atlantic. If the "polar vortex is weak", there exist "two" such dipoles, one over the western and one over the eastern North Atlantic. Storm tracks (and precipitation related with these) are determined by mid and upper tropospheric conditions and we find significant differences of these parameters between the stratospheric regimes. For the strong polar vortex regime, in case of a negative upper tropospheric "NAO" index we find a blocking height situation over the Northeast Atlantic and the strongest storm track of all. It is reaching far north into the Arctic Ocean and has a secondary maximum over the Denmark Strait. Such storm track is not found in composites based on a classic NAO defined by surface pressure differences between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High. Our results show that it is essential to include the state of the upper dynamic boundary conditions (the polar vortex strength) in any study of the variability over the North Atlantic. Climate forecast based solely on the forecast of a "classic NAO" and further statistical downscaling may lead to the wrong conclusions if the state of the polar vortex is not considered as well.

Citation: Walter, K. and Graf, H.-F.: The North Atlantic variability structure, storm tracks, and precipitation depending on the polar vortex strength, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 4, 6127-6148, doi:10.5194/acpd-4-6127-2004, 2004.
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