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Intraseasonal interaction between the Madden–Julian Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation


Bridging the traditional gap between the spatio-temporal scales of weather and climate is a significant challenge facing the atmospheric community. In particular, progress in both medium-range and seasonal-to-interannual climate prediction relies on our understanding of recurrent weather patterns and the identification of specific causes responsible for their favoured occurrence, persistence or transition. Within this framework, I here present evidence that the main climate intra-seasonal oscillation in the tropics—the Madden–Julian Oscillation1,2 (MJO)—controls part of the distribution and sequences of the four daily weather regimes defined over the North Atlantic–European region in winter3. North Atlantic Oscillation4 (NAO) regimes are the most affected, allowing for medium-range predictability of their phase far exceeding the limit of around one week that is usually quoted. The tropical–extratropical lagged relationship is asymmetrical. Positive NAO events mostly respond to a mid-latitude low-frequency wave train initiated by the MJO in the western–central tropical Pacific and propagating eastwards. Precursors for negative NAO events are found in the eastern tropical Pacific–western Atlantic, leading to changes along the North Atlantic storm track. Wave-breaking diagnostics tend to support the MJO preconditioning and the role of transient eddies in setting the phase of the NAO. I present a simple statistical model to quantitatively assess the potential predictability of the daily NAO index or the sign of the NAO regimes when they occur. Forecasts are successful in 70 per cent of the cases based on the knowledge of the previous 12-day MJO phase used as a predictor. This promising skill could be of importance considering the tight link4 between weather regimes and both mean conditions and the chances of extreme events occurring over Europe. These findings are useful for further stressing the need to better simulate and forecast the tropical coupled ocean–atmosphere dynamics, which is a source of medium-to-long range predictability and is the Achilles’ heel of the current seamless prediction suites5,6,7.

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Figure 1: Wintertime North Atlantic weather regimes.
Figure 2: Dynamical and thermodynamical signatures of the eight phases of the MJO.
Figure 3: Lagged relationships between the eight phases of the MJO and the four North Atlantic weather regimes.
Figure 4: Asymmetrical tropical–extratropical connection between two specific phases of the MJO leading to NAO+ and NAO- events.

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The author wishes to thank L. Terray, G. Rivière, R. Madden, G. Madec and C. Périgaud for discussions. The author also thanks F. Chauvin, H. Douville and S. Valcke for comments on the manuscript. The author is very grateful to O. Mestre and J.-P. Céron for their help with statistics. The figures were produced using the NCL software developed at NCAR. This work was supported by CNRS and by the European Union’s Sixth Framework Programme (DYNAMITE and ENSEMBLES).

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Correspondence to Christophe Cassou.

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Cassou, C. Intraseasonal interaction between the Madden–Julian Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation. Nature 455, 523–527 (2008).

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