The Arctic Ocean Response to the North Atlantic Oscillation
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The climatically sensitive zone of the Arctic Ocean lies squarely within the domain of the North Atlantic oscillation (NAO), one of the most robust recurrent modes of atmospheric behavior. However, the specific response of the Arctic to annual and longer-period changes in the NAO is not well understood. Here that response is investigated using a wide range of datasets, but concentrating on the winter season when the forcing is maximal and on the postwar period, which includes the most comprehensive instrumental record. This period also contains the largest recorded low-frequency change in NAO activity—from its most persistent and extreme low index phase in the 1960s to its most persistent and extreme high index phase in the late 1980s/early 1990s. This longperiod shift between contrasting NAO extrema was accompanied, among other changes, by an intensifying storm track through the Nordic Seas, a radical increase in the atmospheric moisture flux convergence and winter precipitation in this sector, an increase in the amount and temperature of the Atlantic water inflow to the Arctic Ocean via both inflow branches (Barents Sea Throughflow and West Spitsbergen Current), a decrease in the late-winter extent of sea ice throughout the European subarctic, and (temporarily at least) an increase in the annual volume flux of ice from the Fram Strait.
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