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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Shift of the Northern Node of the NAO and Cyclonic Rossby Wave Breaking


Several studies have found an eastward shift in the northern node of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) during the winters of 1978–97 compared to 1958–77. This study focuses on the connection between this shift of the northern node of the NAO and Rossby wave breaking (RWB) for the period 1958–97. It is found that the region of frequent cyclonic RWB underwent a northeastward shift at high latitudes in the latter 20-yr period. On a year-to-year basis, the cyclonic RWB region moves along a southwest–northeast (SW–NE)-directed axis. Both latitude and longitude of the winter maximum frequency of cyclonic RWB occurrence are positively correlated with the NAO index.

To investigate the role of location of cyclonic RWB in influencing the NAO pattern, the geographical location of frequent cyclonic RWB is divided into two subdomains located along the SW–NE axis, to the south (SW domain) and east (NE domain) of Greenland. Two composites are assembled as one cyclonic RWB occurrence is detected in one of the two subdomains in 6-hourly instantaneous data. The forcing of the mean flow due to cyclonic RWB within individual subdomains is found to be locally restricted to where the breaking occurs, which is usually near the jet exit region and far removed from the jet core. The difference in the jet between the NE and SW composites resembles the difference in the mean jet between the 1978–97 and 1958–77 periods, which suggests that the change in cyclonic RWB occurrence in the two subdomains is associated with the wobbling of the jet on the decadal time scale.

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