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European temperature responses to blocking and ridge regional patterns

Sousa PM, Trigo RM, Barriopedro D, Soares PMM, Santos JA
. Cimate Dynamics, doi: 10.1007/s00382-017-3620-2

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Abstract

Blocking occurrence and its impacts on European temperature have been studied in the last decade. However, most previous studies on blocking impacts have focused on winter only, disregarding its fingerprint in summer and differences with other synoptic patterns that also trigger temperature extremes. In this work, we provide a clear distinction between high-latitude blocking and subtropical ridges occurring in three sectors of the Euro-Atlantic region, describing their climatology and consequent impacts on European temperature during both winter and summer. Winter blocks (ridges) are generally associated to colder (warmer) than average conditions over large regions of Europe, in some areas with anomalies larger than 5 C, particularly for the patterns occurring in the Atlantic and Central European sectors. During summer, there is a more regional response characterized by above average temperature for both blocking and ridge patterns, especially those occurring in continental areas, although negative temperature anomalies persist in southernmost areas during blocking. An objective analysis of the different forcing mechanisms associated to each considered weather regime has been performed, quantifying the importance of the following processes in causing the temperature anomalies: horizontal advection, vertical advection and diabatic heating. While during winter advection processes tend to be more relevant to explain temperature responses, in summer radiative heating under enhanced insolation plays a crucial role for both blocking and ridges. Finally, the changes in the distributions of seasonal temperature and in the frequencies of extreme temperature indices were also examined for specific areas of Europe. Winter blocking and ridge patterns are key drivers in the occurrence of regional cold and warm extreme temperatures, respectively. In summer, they are associated with substantial changes in the frequency of extremely warm days, but with different signatures in southern Europe. We conclude that there has been some misusage of the traditional blocking definition in the attribution of extreme events.