Publication Abstracts

Otterman et al. 2002

Otterman, J., R. Atlas, S.-H. Chou, J.C. Jusem, R.A. Pielke, Jr., T.N. Chase, J. Rogers, G.L. Russell, S.D. Schubert, Y.C. Sud, and J. Terry, 2002: Are stronger North-Atlantic southwesterlies the forcing to the late-winter warming in Europe? Int. J. Climatol., 22, 743-750, doi:10.1002/joc.681.

We examine a possible mechanism leading to late-winter warming, and thus to an early spring in Europe. From the National Centers for Environmental Prediction reanalysis, we extract for the years 1948-99 ocean-surface winds over the eastern North Atlantic, and air temperatures at the surface Ts, and at the 500 hPa level T500 in late-winter and spring. Ts is extracted at six European locations, all at 50.5°N, ranging in longitude from 1.9°E (northeastern France) to 26.2°E (Ukraine). To quantify the advection of maritime air into Europe, we evaluate for three-pentad groups the index Ina of the southwesterlies at 45°N, 20°W; Ina is the average wind speed at this point if the direction is from the quadrant 180-270° (when the direction is different, the contribution counts as zero). In late winter, correlations Cit between Ina and Ts are substantial, up to the 0.6 level in western Europe (but weaker correlations for Poland and Ukraine). Cit drops sharply by mid-March, occasionally taking negative values subsequently. This drop in Cit indicates that maritime air advection is no longer associated closely with the surface-air warming; the role of insolation becomes important, and thus the drop in Cit marks the arrival of spring. Correlations C between Ina and our lapse-rate parameter, the difference between Ts and T500, indicate that the flow of warm maritime-air from the North Atlantic into this corridor at 50.5°N is predominantly at lower tropospheric level. By computing the best linear fit to Ina and Ts, the trends for the period 1948-99 are evaluated. The trends are appreciable in the second half of February and the first half of March: for Ina, the trends are 0.41 m/s and 0.15 m/s per decade in pentad groups 10-12 and 13-15 respectively (Ina increased from 1948 to 1999 by 2.10 m/s and 0.77 m/s); for Ts, the trends for western Germany are 0.36°C and 0.43°C per decade in these two respective pentad groups (Ts in this location increased from 1948 to 1999 by 1.86°C and 2.19°C). Such higher near-surface temperatures would markedly influence snow-melt, and thus absorption of insolation by the surface. Our three-pentad analysis points to the interval from mid-February to mid-March as the end of-winter period in which the southwesterlies over the eastern North Atlantic become stronger and the surface-air temperatures in Europe rise markedly, the lapse rate becomes steeper, and concurrently the longitudinal temperature gradient between the Somme (France) and the Oder (Germany-Poland border) (about -4°C in 1948 for the 10° longitude distance) is reduced by 0.8°C, i.e. by 20% of its 1948 value. Our thesis, that the observed late-winter warming and the concomitant advancement of spring in Europe results, at least in part, from stronger southwesterlies over the North Atlantic, merits further investigations.

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BibTeX Citation

  author={Otterman, J. and Atlas, R. and Chou, S.-H. and Jusem, J. C. and Pielke, Jr., R. A. and Chase, T. N. and Rogers, J. and Russell, G. L. and Schubert, S. D. and Sud, Y. C. and Terry, J.},
  title={Are stronger North-Atlantic southwesterlies the forcing to the late-winter warming in Europe?},
  journal={Int. J. Climatol.},

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RIS Citation

ID  - ot05000n
AU  - Otterman, J.
AU  - Atlas, R.
AU  - Chou, S.-H.
AU  - Jusem, J. C.
AU  - Pielke, R. A., Jr.
AU  - Chase, T. N.
AU  - Rogers, J.
AU  - Russell, G. L.
AU  - Schubert, S. D.
AU  - Sud, Y. C.
AU  - Terry, J.
PY  - 2002
TI  - Are stronger North-Atlantic southwesterlies the forcing to the late-winter warming in Europe?
JA  - Int. J. Climatol.
VL  - 22
SP  - 743
EP  - 750
DO  - 10.1002/joc.681
ER  -

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