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Journal Article

Does the Mediterranean Sea influence the European summer climate? The anomalous summer 2003 as a testbed

MPS-Authors
http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/cone/persons/resource/persons37358

Tomassini,  Lorenzo
Climate Modelling, The Atmosphere in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/cone/persons/resource/persons37139

Elizalde,  Alberto
The Atmosphere in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

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JClim-25-2012-7028.pdf
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Citation

Tomassini, L., & Elizalde, A. (2012). Does the Mediterranean Sea influence the European summer climate? The anomalous summer 2003 as a testbed. Journal of Climate, 25, 7028-7045. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00330.1.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000F-EAAD-9
Abstract
The European summer 2003 presents a rare opportunity to investigate dynamical interactions in the otherwise variable European climate. Not only did air temperature show a distinct signal, but the Mediterranean sea surface temperature (SST) was also exceptionally warm. The traditional view of the role of the Mediterranean Sea in the climate system highlights the influence of the atmospheric circulation on the Mediterranean Sea. The question of whether the Mediterranean Sea feeds back on the atmospheric dynamics is of central importance. The case of the extremely anomalous summer 2003 allows for investigating the issue under realistic boundary conditions. The present study takes advantage of a newly developed regional coupled atmosphereocean model for this purpose. Experiments with prescribed historical versus climatological SST suggest that the local atmospheric circulation is not strongly sensitive to the state of the Mediterranean Sea, but its influence on the moisture balance and its role in the regional hydrological cycle is substantial. Warmer Mediterranean SSTs lead to enhanced evaporation and moisture transport in the atmosphere. Results of regional coupled simulations with different ocean initial conditions imply that because of the strong stratification of the surface waters in summer, the response time of the upper layers of the Mediterranean Sea to atmospheric forcing is rather short. It can be concluded that the role of the Mediterranean Sea in the European summer climate is mostly passive. In winter, however, since the upper layers of the Mediterranean Sea are well mixed, the memory of the Mediterranean SSTs stretches over longer time scales, which implies a potential for actively governing regional climate characteristics to some extent. © 2012 American Meteorological Society.