Reduced European aerosol emissions suppress winter extremes over northern Eurasia

Abstract

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.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: LWA trends from reanalysis and model simulation over December to February during 1970–2005.
Fig. 2: CESM wintertime changes from 1970–2005 (DIFF).
Fig. 3: Observed and simulated variations in December to February Tmin over Eurasia (0–150° E, 20–80° N).
Fig. 4: CESM future wintertime changes in DIFF during 2015–2045.

Data availability

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/).

Code availability

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).

References

  1. 1.

    Cohen, J., Pfeiffer, K. & Francis, J. A. Warm Arctic episodes linked with increased frequency of extreme winter weather in the United States. Nat. Commun. 9, 869 (2018).

  2. 2.

    Sun, L., Perlwitz, J. & Hoerling, M. What caused the recent “Warm Arctic, Cold Continents” trend pattern in winter temperatures? Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 5345–5352 (2016).

  3. 3.

    Barnes, E. A., Dunn-Sigouin, E., Masato, G. & Woollings, T. Exploring recent trends in Northern Hemisphere blocking. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 638–644 (2014).

  4. 4.

    Wang, Y., Jiang, J. H. & Su, H. Atmospheric responses to the redistribution of anthropogenic aerosols. J. Geophys. Res. 120, 9625–9641 (2015).

  5. 5.

    Scaife, A. A., Folland, C. K., Alexander, L. V., Moberg, A. & Knight, J. R. European climate extremes and the North Atlantic Oscillation. J. Clim. 21, 72–83 (2008).

  6. 6.

    Schneider, T., Bischoff, T. & Płotka, H. Physics of changes in synoptic midlatitude temperature variability. J. Clim. 28, 2312–2331 (2015).

  7. 7.

    Cohen, J. et al. Recent Arctic amplification and extreme mid-latitude weather. Nat. Geosci. 7, 627–637 (2014).

  8. 8.

    Francis, J. A. & Vavrus, S. J.Evidence for a wavier jet stream in response to rapid Arctic warming. Environ. Res. Lett. 10, 014005 (2015).

  9. 9.

    Seidel, D. J. et al. Widening of the tropical belt in a changing climate. Nat. Geosci. 1, 21–24 (2008).

  10. 10.

    Screen, J. A. et al. Consistency and discrepancy in the atmospheric response to Arctic sea-ice loss across climate models. Nat. Geosci. 11, 155–163 (2018).

  11. 11.

    Seinfeld, J. H. et al. Improving our fundamental understanding of the role of aerosol–cloud interactions in the climate system. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 113, 5781–5790 (2016).

  12. 12.

    Fan, J., Wang, Y., Rosenfeld, D. & Liu, X. Review of aerosol–cloud interactions: mechanisms, significance, and challenges. J. Atmos. Sci. 73, 4221–4252 (2016).

  13. 13.

    Guo, J. et al. Declining frequency of summertime local-scale precipitation over eastern China from 1970–2010 and its potential link to aerosols. Geophys. Res. Lett. 44, 5700–5708 (2017).

  14. 14.

    IPCC Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  15. 15.

    Bollasina, M. A., Ming, Y. & Ramaswamy, V. Anthropogenic aerosols and the weakening of the South Asian summer monsoon. Science 334, 502–505 (2011).

  16. 16.

    Li, Z. et al. Aerosol and monsoon climate interactions over Asia. Rev. Geophys. 54, 866–929 (2016).

  17. 17.

    Wang, Y., Zhang, R. & Saravanan, R. Asian pollution climatically modulates mid-latitude cyclones following hierarchical modelling and observational analysis. Nat. Commun. 5, 3098 (2014).

  18. 18.

    Booth, B. B., Dunstone, N. J., Halloran, P. R., Andrews, T. & Bellouin, N. Aerosols implicated as a prime driver of twentieth-century North Atlantic climate variability. Nature 484, 228–232 (2012).

  19. 19.

    Allen, R. J., Sherwood, S. C., Norris, J. R. & Zender, C. S. Recent Northern Hemisphere tropical expansion primarily driven by black carbon and tropospheric ozone. Nature 485, 350–354 (2012).

  20. 20.

    Wang, Y. et al. Elucidating the role of anthropogenic aerosols in arctic sea ice variations. J. Clim. 31, 99–114 (2018).

  21. 21.

    Chen, G., Lu, J., Burrows, D. A. & Leung, L. R. Local finite-amplitude wave activity as an objective diagnostic of midlatitude extreme weather. Geophys. Res. Lett. 42, 10952–10960 (2015).

  22. 22.

    Peings, Y., Cattiaux, J., Vavrus, S. & Magnusdottir, G. Late twenty-first-century changes in the midlatitude atmospheric circulation in the CESM large ensemble. J. Clim. 30, 5943–5960 (2017).

  23. 23.

    Coumou, D., Lehmann, J. & Beckmann, J. The weakening summer circulation in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes. Science 348, 324–327 (2015).

  24. 24.

    Liu, J. P., Curry, J. A., Wang, H. J., Song, M. R. & Horton, R. M. Impact of declining Arctic sea ice on winter snowfall. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 4074–4079 (2012).

  25. 25.

    Röthlisberger, M., Pfahl, S. & Martius, O. Regional-scale jet waviness modulates the occurrence of midlatitude weather extremes. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 10989–10997 (2016).

  26. 26.

    Rhines, A., McKinnon, K. A., Tingley, M. P. & Huybers, P. Seasonally resolved distributional trends of North American temperatures show contraction of winter variability. J. Clim. 30, 1139–1157 (2017).

  27. 27.

    Martineau, P., Chen, G. & Burrows, D. A. Wave events: climatology, trends, and relationship to Northern Hemisphere winter blocking and weather extremes. J. Clim. 30, 5675–5697 (2017).

  28. 28.

    Wilks, D. S. The stippling shows statistically significant grid points: how research results are routinely overstated and overinterpreted, and what to do about it. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 97, 2263–2273 (2016).

  29. 29.

    Garfinkel, C. I. & Waugh, D. W. Tropospheric Rossby wave breaking and variability of the latitude of the eddy-driven jet. J. Clim. 27, 7069–7085 (2014).

  30. 30.

    Smith, D. M. et al. Role of volcanic and anthropogenic aerosols in the recent global surface warming slowdown. Nat. Clim. Change 6, 936–940 (2016).

  31. 31.

    Harada, Y. et al. The JRA-55 reanalysis: representation of atmospheric circulation and climate variability. J. Meteorol. Soc. Jpn 94, 269–302 (2016).

  32. 32.

    Feichter, J., Roeckner, E., Lohmann, U. & Liepert., B. Nonlinear aspects of the climate response to greenhouse gas and aerosol forcing. J. Clim. 17, 2384–2398 (2004).

  33. 33.

    Ming, Y. & Ramaswamy, V. Nonlinear climate and hydrological responses to aerosol effects. J. Clim. 22, 1329–1339 (2009).

  34. 34.

    Ming, Y., Ramaswamy, V. & Chen, G. A model investigation of aerosol-induced changes in boreal winter extratropical circulation. J. Clim. 24, 6077–6091 (2011).

Download references

Acknowledgements

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. (yuan.wang@caltech.edu).

Author information

Y.W. and J.H.J. designed the research. Y.W. obtained the data and performed the model simulations. T.L., Y.W., G.C. and Y.L.Y. analysed the data. Y.W. wrote the paper. J.H.S., G.C., Y.L.Y., H.S., J.H.J. and T.L. commented on and edited the paper.

Correspondence to Yuan Wang or Jonathan H. Jiang.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

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.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–7 and discussion.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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

Download citation