Detection of a possible change point in atmospheric variability in the North Atlantic and its effect on Scandinavian glacier mass balance



Climate change, resulting from an increase in global temperatures, is likely to have a large impact on glaciers and glacier meltwater during the course of the present century resulting in significant contributions to sea level rise. Globally, glaciers are in retreat, partly as a response to the return to warmer conditions after the last neoglacial period during the Little Ice Age but also because of the almost continuous increases evident in global temperature since then. In contrast, Scandinavian glaciers, particularly maritime glaciers, were maintaining equilibrium or advancing over the closing decades of the last century possibly resulting from an increased moisture flux over the North Atlantic. While the more continental glaciers were still declining, the rate of decline diminished during the late 1980s. This coincides with an accelerated rate of increase evident on the maritime glaciers in southwestern Norway. A change point in atmospheric variability in the North Atlantic is identified as having occurred during this period. This change point is associated with an intensification of westerlies over Europe, particularly since the late 1980s, which significantly contributes to increases in temperature and precipitation over northern Europe while suppressing the penetration of warm, moist air into more southern European locations. Regional variations in temperature and precipitation from selected Scandinavian stations are also found to be consistent with the changes in the large-scale modes of atmospheric variability in the North Atlantic. Copyright © 2005 Royal Meteorological Society