The potential of seasonal-to-decadal-scale inter-regional linkages to advance climate predictions (InterDec)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: National Centre for Atmospheric Science


Globally averaged surface air temperature (SAT) during the 20th and 21st centuries displays a gradual warming and superimposed year-to-year and decadal-scale fluctuations. The upward trend contains the climate response to an anthropogenic increase of heat-trapping atmospheric greenhouse gases. The temperature ups and downs around the trend - that are particularly pronounced in the Arctic - mostly reflect natural variability. Natural climate variations are of two types, internal and external. The former is produced by the climate system itself, e.g. due to variations in ocean circulation. An example of the latter is solar-induced climate variability. Decadal-scale variability is of large societal relevance. It is observed, for example, in Atlantic hurricane activity, Sahel rainfall, Indian and East Asian Monsoons, Eurasian winter coldness and in the Arctic SAT and sea ice. The understanding and skillful prediction of decadal-scale climate variability that modulates the regional occurrence of extreme weather events will be of enormous societal and economic benefit.
InterDec is an international initiative aiming at understanding the origin of decadal-scale climate variability in different regions of the world and the linkages between them by using observational data sets and through coordinated multi-model experiments. How can a decadal-scale climate anomaly in one region influence very distant areas of the planet? This can happen through atmospheric or oceanic teleconnections. Fast signal communication between different latitudinal belts within days or weeks is possible through atmospheric teleconnection, whereas communication through oceanic pathways is much slower requiring years to decades or even longer. Understanding these processes will enhance decadal climate prediction of both mean climate variations and associated trends in regional extreme events. Scientists from different European countries, from China and Japan will closely collaborate to disentangle the secrets of the inter-relations of decadal-scale variability around the globe.

Planned Impact

Societies are vulnerable to weather and climate extremes by setting agriculture, infrastructure (e.g. electricity supply or transport) and human activities and life at risk.
InterDec will provide an improved science based foundation of the linkages between the Arctic , midlatitudes and the Tropics, thus leading to a better understanding of regional climate variability and change. This will include more robust estimates of uncertainties, as well as to more reliable predictions of regional weather and climate extremes, such as breaks and intensifications of East Asian and African (Sahel) Monsoon, Eurasian mid-latitude cold spells, heat waves and flooding or rapid declines in Arctic sea ice. More reliable climate predictions and projections can improve disaster prevention as well as adaptation and mitigation strategies. The latter are especially important in densely populated areas. More reliable climate predictions and projections can also make the business sector more resilient and competitive and optimize stakeholder decisions.

InterDec science will help to inform decision making in a range of areas including: the development and exploitation of Arctic Sea routes and the management of energy infrastructure, both in terms of short term resource management on sub-seasonal to seasonal timescales and decisions about the development of new infrastructure; and development of agricultural policy for food security. Improved confidence in sub-seasonal and seasonal forecasts will allow for better planning and response for disaster risk reduction in response to extreme events, e.g. heat waves, floods and droughts.


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Charlton-Perez A (2018) The influence of the stratospheric state on North Atlantic weather regimes in Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society

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Lee J (2020) The links between the Madden-Julian Oscillation and European weather regimes in Theoretical and Applied Climatology

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Van Der Wiel K (2019) The influence of weather regimes on European renewable energy production and demand in Environmental Research Letters

Description Previous research has shown that weather in the tropics is linked to winter weather in the Western Europe 10-20 days later, which can be lead to increased predictability for weather in the Western Europe including the UK in 10- to 30-day forecasts, known as 'subseasonal' timescales. Some of this tropical weather can be characterised by a feature of the tropical atmosphere called the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), which is an eastward moving 'pulse' of organized convection that are preceded by clearer conditions. The MJO typically takes 30 to 60 days to complete a lap around the equator, however it is only active for around one third of the time, on average. The MJO can trigger waves which tend to travel via preferred pathways to many different regions far away from their source, and have been shown to influence the development, duration and strength of weather patterns, including in North America, Brazil, Europe, and monsoons in Asia and Australia. These remote, long-distance connections are known as teleconnections. There is also another important cycle of weather in the tropics, this time with variations on the interannual timescale, known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). ENSO characterises the periodic variation of sea surface temperatures and accompanying atmospheric circulation over the tropical Pacific Ocean. The warm phase is known as 'El Niño' and the cool phase as 'La Niña', and they reach their peak intensity during Northern Hemisphere winter.
Our research has shown for the first time that these teleconnections from the MJO to the weather patterns in the UK and Europe are strongly dependent on the seasonal mean state of ENSO. This means that, for a given winter, whether we have El Niño or La Niña conditions in the Pacific then impacts the characteristcs of the MJO. This then has a consequence on the type of waves that are triggered and the pathways these waves take to the UK and Europe. Following this chain of events, certain spells of weather, such as mild, windy and wet weather, or cold and dry weather, being up to 2.5 times more common. This research has improved our understanding of the predictability of European weather on sub-seasonal timescales.
In collaboration with other partners we have demonstrated that this European Weather Patterns have impacts on energy demand and renewable energy production, and UK hospital admissions and mortality
Exploitation Route These outcomes lead to an increase understanding of an important dynamical mechanism. By assessing how well they represent the processes and alleviating any deficiencies which are found this can enable an improved representation of these processes in all dynamical models, from weather forecasting to climate prediction timescales. Additionally, from a predictability point of view, these outcomes bring an improved understanding of the potential subseasonal predictability and aid interpretation of subseasonal weather forecasts, which is very useful for a wide number of sectors in society including: energy, agriculture, health, transportation, water, and retail.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Retail,Transport

Description Weather Regimes and European Energy 
Organisation Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The PDRA associated with this project contributed Euro-Atlantic Weather Regime Data to an analysis of the impact of weather on the European Renewable Energy Sector, and the dynamical interpretation of the those regimes and transitions between them
Collaborator Contribution The KNMI partners led the concept of the analysis and the interpretation of Energy Demand, Supply and Shortfall and its sensitivity to weather regimes.
Impact A paper van der Wiel et al (2019) was published on this work
Start Year 2018