North Atlantic Oscillation in winter is largely insensitive to autumn Barents-Kara sea ice variability
Arctic sea ice extent in autumn is significantly correlated with the winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) in the satellite era. However, questions about the robustness and reproducibility of the relationship persist. Here, we show that climate models are able to simulate periods of strong ice-NAO correlation, albeit rarely. Furthermore, we show that the winter circulation signals during these periods are consistent with observations and not driven by sea ice. We do so by interrogating a multimodel ensemble for the specific time scale of interest, thereby illuminating the dynamics that produce large spread in the ice-NAO relationship. Our results support the importance of internal variability over sea ice but go further in showing that the mechanism behind strong ice-NAO correlations, when they occur, is similar in longer observational records and models. Rather than sea ice, circulation anomalies over the Urals emerge as a decisive precursor to the winter NAO signal.
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