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Keywords:

  • sea-surface temperature;
  • stratospheric warming

Abstract

There is only limited understanding of the processes driving year-to-year variability in European winter climate and the skill of seasonal forecasts for Europe in winter is generally low. The winter of 2005-2006 is a useful case-study because it was the coldest winter in large parts of western Europe for over a decade, and the coldest in central England since 1995-1996. Here, we present results of experiments with a range of general circulation models to investigate the importance of both the Atlantic Ocean and stratospheric circulation in producing the unusually cold winter of 2005-2006. We use models with different combinations of horizontal and stratospheric vertical resolution, allowing the sensitivity of the response to model formulation to be tested. The response to Atlantic sea-surface temperature (SST) anomalies is improved in a more recent model with higher horizontal resolution. The results show that both Atlantic SSTs and the January 2006 sudden stratospheric warming are likely to have contributed to the cold 2005-2006 European winter. © Crown Copyright 2008. Reproduced with the permission of HMSO. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.