Winter extreme weather events receive major public attention due to their serious impacts1, but the dominant factors regulating their interdecadal trends have not been clearly established2,3. Here, we show that the radiative forcing due to geospatially redistributed anthropogenic aerosols mainly determined the spatial variations of winter extreme weather in the Northern Hemisphere during 1970–2005, a unique transition period for global aerosol forcing4. Over this period, the local Rossby wave activity and extreme events (top 10% in wave amplitude) exhibited marked declining trends at high latitudes, mainly in northern Eurasia. The combination of long-term observational data and a state-of-the-art climate model revealed the unambiguous signature of anthropogenic aerosols on the wintertime jet stream, planetary wave activity and surface temperature variability on interdecadal timescales. In particular, warming due to aerosol reductions in Europe enhanced the meridional temperature gradient on the jet’s poleward flank and strengthened the zonal wind, resulting in significant suppression in extreme events over northern Eurasia. These results exemplify how aerosol forcing can impact large-scale extratropical atmospheric dynamics, and illustrate the importance of anthropogenic aerosols and their spatiotemporal variability in assessing the drivers of extreme weather in historical and future climate.
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The reanalysis products used in this study are publicly available from the NCAR Research Data Archive (https://rda.ucar.edu/datasets/ds628.0/). Monthly mean climate indices are available from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/data/climateindices/list/).
The code of the NCAR CESM model used in this study is available at http://www2.mmm.ucar.edu/wrf/users/download/get_source.html. The scripts used to process the model data can be found on the public website of corresponding author Y.W. (http://web.gps.caltech.edu/~yzw/share/Wang-2020-NCC).
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This study is supported by the NASA ROSES ACMAP and CCST, and NSF grants AGS-1700727 and AGS-1742178. We acknowledge the support of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with NASA. We also acknowledge high-performance computing support from Pleiades, provided at NASA Ames. The CESM project is supported primarily by the National Science Foundation. All correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to Y.W. (email@example.com).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks Marie McGraw, Zhaoyi Shen and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Wang, Y., Le, T., Chen, G. et al. Reduced European aerosol emissions suppress winter extremes over northern Eurasia. Nat. Clim. Chang. (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0693-4