• Rossby wave-breaking;
  • westward propagation;
  • stratosphere


A synoptic situation termed ‘high-latitude blocking’ (HLB) is shown to occur frequently in both the Atlantic and Pacific sectors, and to result in flow anomalies very similar to those associated with the negative phase of the Northern Annular Mode (NAM) in the respective sector. There is a weak but significant link between the occurrence of HLB in the two sectors, with Atlantic HLB tending to lead Pacific HLB by 1–3 days. This link arises from rare events in which both sectors are almost simultaneously affected by a large-scale wave-breaking event which distorts the polar trough over Northern Canada. In several cases the tropospheric wave-breaking occurs in tandem with a large-scale disturbance of the stratospheric polar vortex.

There is, therefore, a physical link between the Atlantic and Pacific sectors, but analysis suggests that this does not contribute to determining the pattern of the NAM, as conventionally defined from monthly mean data. However, an alternative version of the NAM, derived directly from daily data, does appear to reflect this physical link. These conflicting results highlight the sensitivity of the NAM to the period over which data are averaged. Copyright © 2008 Royal Meteorological Society