BSC participates in a study that reveals that the North Atlantic climate is highly predictable

30 July 2020

A team of scientists, led by the Met Office and among which are researchers from the BSC, have achieved a scientific breakthrough allowing the longer-term prediction of North Atlantic pressure patterns.

Published in Nature, the study, which analysed six decades of climate model data, suggests that the decadal variations in North Atlantic atmospheric pressure patterns (known as the North Atlantic oscillation) are highly predictable, enabling advance warning whether winters in the coming decade are likely to be stormy, warm and wet, or calm, cold and dry.

However, the study reveals that these long-term predictions (made with global climate models that need supercomputing resources) are only possible if a large number of data providers work together in a coordinated effort. Francisco Doblas, director of the Earth Sciences department and ICREA researcher, stresses that “decadal climate prediction is a relatively new resource for the generation of future global climate information. This paper documents for the first time the ability of current global climate forecast systems, such as the one developed at the BSC, to correctly predict years in advance aspects of the atmospheric circulation over the North Atlantic that are key for the European winter climate”.

Doblas adds: “The socioeconomic implications of this discovery are particularly important for the energy and insurance sectors to better adapt to climate risks. The BSC is proud of having pioneered this source of information since its inception and been labelled by the World Meteorological Organisation as one of the four active global producing centre for decadal predictions”

In addition to Francisco Doblas, BSC’s researchers Louis-Philippe Caron, Roberto Bilbao, Simon Wild and Pablo Ortega have also participated in this study.

Lead author Dr Doug Smith, who heads decadal climate prediction research and development at the Met Office Hadley Centre, says: “The message from this study is double-edged: climate is much more predictable than we previously thought, but there is a clear need to improve how models simulate regional changes.”

Improving model simulations will enhance the UK’s response, resilience and security against the effects of extreme weather and climate change – influencing future policy decisions to protect people’s lives, property and infrastructure and for continuous adaptation to the effects of anthropogenic climate change.