Research ArticleCLIMATOLOGY

Insignificant effect of Arctic amplification on the amplitude of midlatitude atmospheric waves

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Science Advances  19 Feb 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 8, eaay2880
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay2880


Whether Arctic amplification has contributed to a wavier circulation and more frequent extreme weather in midlatitudes remains an open question. For two to three decades starting from the mid-1980s, accelerated Arctic warming and a reduced meridional near-surface temperature gradient coincided with a wavier circulation. However, waviness remains largely unchanged in model simulations featuring strong Arctic amplification. Here, we show that the previously reported trend toward a wavier circulation during autumn and winter has reversed in recent years, despite continued Arctic amplification, resulting in negligible multidecadal trends. Models capture the observed correspondence between a reduced temperature gradient and increased waviness on interannual to decadal time scales. However, model experiments in which a reduced temperature gradient is imposed do not feature increased wave amplitude. Our results strongly suggest that the observed and simulated covariability between waviness and temperature gradients on interannual to decadal time scales does not represent a forced response to Arctic amplification.

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