An especially cold winter in Europe, lots of snow in Scandinavia or lots of rain in the Mediterranean are all symptoms of what meteorologists call the North Atlantic Oscillation, but a group of Penn State researchers has gone beyond the symptoms to try to decipher the dynamics of this atmospheric pattern.
"Some scientists argue that the impact of the NAO on global climate is comparable to El Nino," says Dr. Sukyoung Lee, associate professor of meteorology. "However, most of the scientific communitys analyses to date have been of monthly or seasonal averages which fail to reveal the intrinsic nature of the NAO." The fundamental dynamic process of the North Atlantic Oscillation is on a two-week scale, says Dr. Christian Franzke, postdoctoral fellow in meteorology, referencing an earlier work by Dr. Steven Feldstein, senior research associate, Penn States Environmental Institute. Looking at seasonal data does not really say anything about the causes or mechanisms of the phenomenon. Franzke presents this research at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union today (Dec. 9).
The NAO is best known as a pressure difference between the air over Iceland and the air over the Azores – located in the middle of the Atlantic on a latitude with Lisbon, Portugal. If pressure is higher than usual over Iceland, it is colder in Europe during the winter and there is more rain in the Mediterranean. If pressure is anomalously low over Iceland, there are more storms and precipitation in Europe, a milder winter and there is less rain in the Mediterranean.
Andrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!
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