16 Nov 2022
16 Nov 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESD.

The counter-intuitive link between European heatwaves and atmospheric persistence

Emma Holmberg1, Gabriele Messori1,2, Rodrigo Caballero2, and Davide Faranda3,4,5 Emma Holmberg et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences and Centre of Natural Hazards and Disaster Science (CNDS), Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
  • 2Department of Meteorology and Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 3Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement LSCE-IPSL, CEA Saclay l’Orme des Merisiers, UMR 8212 CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Université Paris-Saclay, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 4London Mathematical Laboratory, London, UK
  • 5LMD/IPSL, Ecole Normale Superieure, PSL Research University, Paris, France

Abstract. Warm temperature extremes can lead to devastating societal impacts, thus, the ability to understand and predict these events is vital to minimising their potential impact on society. We investigate the link between warm temperature extremes in Europe and anomalously persistent atmospheric circulation patterns for both winter and summer, along with some possible driving mechanisms. We assess atmospheric persistence leveraging concepts from dynamical systems theory, with this more mathematical approach being reconciled with the conventional meteorological view of persistence. We find that wintertime warm spells are typically associated with persistent zonal advection. Contrary to intuition, we find neither evidence of a link to anomalously persistent circulation patterns, nor a strong signal for warm temperature advection for summertime heatwaves. We thus argue that atmospheric persistence is not a necessary requirement for summertime heatwaves, and that local effects could play a much more important role than large-scale warm temperature advection for these events.

Emma Holmberg et al.

Status: open (until 02 Jan 2023)

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  • CC1: 'Comment on esd-2022-50', Alexandre Tuel, 28 Nov 2022 reply

Emma Holmberg et al.

Emma Holmberg et al.


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Short summary
We analyse the duration of large scale patterns of air movement in the atmosphere, referred to as persistence, and whether unusually persistent patterns favour high temperatures in Europe. We find that unseasonally warm weather in winter often occurs when the patterns are very persistent. However, we see no such relationship for summertime heatwaves. Therefore, heatwaves do not require the continued flow of warm air over a region, suggesting local effects could be important for their occurrence.