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Journal Article

Intransitive Atmosphere Dynamics Leading to Persistent Hot–Dry or Cold–Wet European Summers


Weiland,  Ruud Sperna
External Organizations;

van der Wiel,  Karin
External Organizations;

Selten,  Frank
External Organizations;


Coumou,  Dim
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

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Weiland, R. S., van der Wiel, K., Selten, F., Coumou, D. (2021): Intransitive Atmosphere Dynamics Leading to Persistent Hot–Dry or Cold–Wet European Summers. - Journal of Climate, 34, 15, 6303-6317.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_26729
Persistent hot–dry or cold–wet summer weather can have significant impacts on agriculture, health, and the environment. For northwestern Europe, these weather regimes are typically linked to, respectively, blocked or zonal jet stream states. The fundamental dynamics underlying these circulation states are still poorly understood. Edward Lorenz postulated that summer circulation may be either fully or almost intransitive, implying that part of the phase space (capturing circulation variability) cannot be reached within one specific summer. If true, this would have major implications for the predictability of summer weather and our understanding of the drivers of interannual variability of summer weather. Here, we test the two Lorenz hypotheses (i.e., fully or almost intransitive) for European summer circulation, capitalizing on a newly available very large ensemble (2000 years) of present-day climate data in the fully coupled global climate model EC-Earth. Using self-organizing maps, we quantify the phase space of summer circulation and the trajectories through phase space in unprecedented detail. We show that, based on Markov assumptions, the summer circulation is strongly dependent on its initial state in early summer with the atmospheric memory ranging from 28 days up to ~45 days. The memory is particularly long if the initial state is either a blocked or a zonal flow state. Furthermore, we identify two groups of summers that are characterized by distinctly different trajectories through phase space, and that prefer either a blocked or zonal circulation state, respectively. These results suggest that intransitivity is indeed a fundamental property of the atmosphere and an important driver of interannual variability.