Characterizing atmospheric circulation signals in Greenland ice cores: insights from a weather regime approach

Research paper by Pablo Ortega, Didier Swingedouw, Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Camille Risi, Bo Vinther, Pascal Yiou, Robert Vautard, Kei Yoshimura

Indexed on: 08 Feb '14Published on: 08 Feb '14Published in: Climate Dynamics


Greenland ice cores offer seasonal to annual records of δ18O, a proxy for precipitation-weighted temperature, over the last few centuries to millennia. Here, we investigate the regional footprints of the North Atlantic weather regimes on Greenland isotope and climate variability, using a compilation of 22 different shallow ice-cores and the atmospheric pressure conditions from the twentieth century reanalysis (20CR). As a first step we have verified that the leading modes of winter and annual δ18O are well correlated with oceanic (Atlantic multidecadal oscillation) and atmospheric [North Atlantic oscillation (NAO)] indices respectively, and also marginally with external forcings, thus confirming earlier studies. The link between weather regimes and Greenland precipitation, precipitation-weighted temperature and δ18O is further explored by using an isotope simulation from the LMDZ-iso model, where the 3-dimensional wind fields are nudged to those of 20CR. In winter, the NAO+ and NAO− regimes in LMDZ-iso produce the largest isotopic changes over the entire Greenland region, with maximum anomalies in the South. Likewise, the Scandinavian blocking and the Atlantic ridge also show remarkable imprints on isotopic composition over the region. To assess the robustness and model dependency of our findings, a second isotope simulation from the isotopic model is also explored. The percentage of Greenland δ18O variance explained by the ensemble of weather regimes is increased by a factor near two in both LMDZ-iso and IsoGSM when compared to the contribution of the NAO index only. Similarly, weather regimes provide a net gain in the δ18O variance explained of similar magnitude for the whole set of ice core records. Greenland δ18O also appears to be locally affected by the low-frequency variations in the centres of action of the weather regimes, with clearer imprints in the LMDZ-iso simulation. This study opens the possibility for reconstructing past changes in the frequencies of occurrence of the weather regimes, which would rely on the sensitive regions identified here, and the use of additional proxies over the North Atlantic region.