Historical storminess and climate 'see-saws' in the North Atlantic region

Alastair George Dawson, L. Elliott, S. Noone, K. Hickey, T. Holt, P. Wadhams, I. D. L. Foster

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44 Citations (Scopus)


The existence of a well-defined climate 'see-saw' across the North Atlantic region and surrounding areas has been known for over 200 years. The occurrence of severe winters in western Greenland frequently coincides with mild winters in northern Europe. Conversely, mild winters in western Greenland are frequently associated with cold winters across northern Europe. Whereas this 'see-saw' is normally discussed in terms of air temperature and pressure differences, here we explore how the climate 'see-saw' is reflected in records of historic storminess from Scotland, NW Ireland and Iceland. It is concluded that the stormiest winters in these regions during the last ca. 150 years have occurred when western Greenland temperatures have been significantly below average. In contrast, winters of reduced storminess have coincided with winters when air temperatures have been significantly above average in western Greenland. This reconstruction of winter storminess implies a relationship between chronologies of coastal erosion and the history of North Atlantic climate 'see-saw' dynamics with sustained winter storminess, and hence increased coastal erosion, taking place when the Icelandic low pressure cell is strongly anchored within the circulation of the northern hemisphere. Considered over the last ca. 2000 years, it would appear that winter storminess and climate-driven coastal erosion was at a minimum during the Medieval Warm Period. By contrast, the time interval from ca. AD 1420 until present has been associated with sustained winter stonniness across the North Atlantic that has resulted in accelerated coastal erosion and sand drift. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-259
Number of pages12
JournalMarine Geology
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • historical storminess
  • North Atlantic climate
  • air temperature
  • climate change


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