Composite analysis is used to examine the physical processes that drive the growth and decay of the surface air temperature anomaly pattern associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Using the thermodynamic energy equation that the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts implements in their reanalysis model, we show that advection of the climatological temperature field by the anomalous wind drives the surface air temperature anomaly pattern for both NAO phases. Diabatic processes exist in strong opposition to this temperature advection and eventually cause the surface air temperature anomalies to return to their climatological values. Specifically, over Greenland, Europe, and the United States, longwave heating/cooling opposes horizontal temperature advection while over northern Africa vertical mixing opposes horizontal temperature advection. Despite the pronounced spatial correspondence between the skin temperature and surface air temperature anomaly patterns, the physical processes that drive these two temperature anomalies associated with the NAO are found to be distinct. The skin temperature anomaly pattern is driven by downward longwave radiation whereas stated above, the surface air temperature anomaly pattern is driven by horizontal temperature advection. This implies that the surface energy budget, although a useful diagnostic tool for understanding skin temperature changes, should not be used to understand surface air temperature changes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science