A Tree-Ring Based Reconstruction (1725-present) of the Position of the Summer North Atlantic Jet Shows a 20th Century Northward Shift

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Valerie Trouet and Flurin Babst, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, United States
The position and strength of the Northern Hemisphere polar jet are important modulators of mid-latitude weather extremes and the societal, ecosystem, and economic damage related to them. The position of the North Atlantic jet (NAJ) controls the location of the Atlantic storm track and anomalies in the NAJ position have been related to temperature and precipitation extremes over Europe. In summer, a southern NAJ regime can result in floods in the British Isles (BRIT) and increasing odds of heat waves in the northeastern Mediterranean (NEMED). Variability in the amplitude and speed of the Northern Hemisphere jet stream is hotly debated as a potential mechanism linking recent mid-latitude weather extremes to anthropogenic warming. However, the hypothesis of jet stream variability as a possible mechanism linking Arctic amplification to mid-latitude weather extremes is largely based on data sets with limited temporal extent that do not warrant robust results from a statistical significance perspective.

Here, we combined two summer temperature-sensitive tree-ring records from BRIT and NEMED to reconstruct interannual variability in the latitudinal position of the summer NAJ back to 1725. The two well-replicated temperature proxies counter-correlate significantly over the full period and thus illustrate the temperature dipole generated by anomalous NAJ positions. Positive extremes in the NAJ reconstruction correspond to heatwaves recorded in the historical Central England temperature record and negative extremes correspond to reconstructed fire years in Greece. The reconstruction shows a northward shift in the latitudinal NAJ position since the 1930s that is most pronounced in the northern NAJ extremes, suggesting a more frequent occurrence of BRIT hot summers in the 20th century compared to previous centuries.