Snow-(N)AO teleconnection and its modulation by the quasi-biennial oscillation
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-17-0041.1
This study explores the wintertime extratropical atmospheric response to Siberian snow anomalies in fall, using observations and two distinct atmospheric general circulation models. The role of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) in modulating this response is discussed by differentiating easterly and westerly QBO years. The remote influence of Siberian snow anomalies is found to be weak in the models, especially in the stratosphere where the "Holton-Tan" effect of the QBO dominates the simulated snow influence on the polar vortex. At the surface, discrepancies between composite analyses from observations and model results question the causal relationship between snow and the atmospheric circulation, suggesting that the atmosphere might have driven snow anomalies rather than the other way around. When both forcings are combined, the simulations suggest destructive interference between the response to positive snow anomalies and easterly QBO (and vice versa), at odds with the hypothesis that the snow-North Atlantic Oscillation/Arctic Oscillation [(N)AO] teleconnection in recent decades has been promoted by the QBO. Although model limitations in capturing the relationship exist, altogether these results suggest that the snow-(N)AO teleconnection may be a stochastic artifact rather than a genuine atmospheric response to snow-cover variability. This study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that climate models do not capture a robust and stationary snow-(N)AO relationship. It also highlights the need for extending observations and/or improving models to progress on this matter.