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Weather packages: finding the right scale and composition of climate in ecology

Authors

  • NILS CHR. STENSETH,

    1. Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066 Blindern, N-0316 Oslo, Norway
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  • ATLE MYSTERUD

    1. Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066 Blindern, N-0316 Oslo, Norway
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Nils Chr. Stenseth, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066 Blindern, N-0316 Oslo, Norway.

Summary

  • 1Animals are affected by local weather variables such as temperature, rainfall and snow. However, large-scale climate indices such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) often outperform local weather variables when it comes to explain climate-related variation in life history traits or animal numbers.
  • 2In a recent paper, Hallet et al. (2004, Nature, 430, 71–75) document convincingly why this may happen. In this perspective, we identify from the literature three mechanisms why this is so: (1) the time window; (2) the spatial window; and (3) the weather composition component of climate.
  • 3Such an understanding may be used to derive even better ‘weather packages’ than the NAO.

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