The ocean predicts future northwestern European and Arctic climate

June 21, 2017, University of Bergen
The Gulf Stream's poleward pathway. The figure shows how the warm Gulf Stream is gradually cooled on its northward journey through the North Atlantic and Nordic Seas until it eventually meets the Arctic sea ice (grey shading). The green boxes show the location of measurements used to track the northward propagation of temperature anomalies. Credit: Marius Årthun, University of Bergen and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research Temperature data by

A new study in the journal Nature Communications by researchers from the University of Bergen and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Norway, and University of Oxford, UK, demonstrates that there is a clear potential for practical and useful predictions of northwestern European and Arctic climate based on the state of the ocean.

"We particularly predict that Norwegian air temperature will decrease over the coming years, although staying above the long-term (1981–2010) average. Winter Arctic sea ice extent will remain low but with a general increase toward 2020", says lead author Marius Årthun, postdoc at the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research.

Time series of observed sea surface temperature along the North Atlantic Current and its poleward extension, the Norwegian Atlantic Current, show that anomalies progress poleward from the subpolar North Atlantic to the Nordic Seas with a time lag of 7-10 years. Higher Nordic Seas temperatures are furthermore associated with higher surface air temperatures and precipitation over Norway, and a reduced Arctic winter sea ice cover.

Årthun et al. shows that a significant part of northwestern European and Arctic can be predicted by statistically exploiting the predictability arising from the poleward propagation of oceanic anomalies along the Gulf Stream and the strong co-variability between these oceanic anomalies and climate.

Climate forecasts are essential for many societal applications and bridges the scientific gap that currently exists between the established fields of weather forecasting and projections of future climate change. It is commonly understood that the ocean, due to its large thermal inertia, is a major source of and predictability.

However, several open questions exist on how and to what extent the ocean influences climate over land. This study detail a key aspect of climate predictability, and offers compelling evidence that oceanic variability exerts a strong influence on climate in the North Atlantic-Arctic region.

Explore further: While the Arctic is melting the Gulf Stream remains

More information: Marius ?rthun et al. Skillful prediction of northern climate provided by the ocean, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms15875

Related Stories

How the Arctic Ocean became saline

June 6, 2017

The Arctic Ocean was once a gigantic freshwater lake. Only after the land bridge between Greenland and Scotland had submerged far enough did vast quantities of salt water pour in from the Atlantic. With the help of a climate ...

Distant oceanic phenomena influence climate in South America

December 13, 2016

The role played by the Atlantic and Pacific, and Indian Oceans in South American climate variability is one of the topics researched by Marcelo Barreiro, Head of Atmospheric Sciences at Uruguay's University of the Republic ...

Large sea ice changes North of Swalbard

June 12, 2014

During the last decades warmer Atlantic water has caused a retreat of the ice edge north of Svalbard. In contrast to other areas of the Arctic Ocean, the largest ice loss north of Svalbard occurred during winter.

Recommended for you

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.