The Arctic Oscillation (AO) is a large scale mode of climate variability, also referred to as the Northern Hemisphere annular mode. The AO is a climate pattern characterized by winds circulating counterclockwise around the Arctic at around 55°N latitude. When the AO is in its positive phase, a ring of strong winds circulating around the North Pole acts to confine colder air across polar regions. This belt of winds becomes weaker and more distorted in the negative phase of the AO, which allows an easier southward penetration of colder, arctic airmasses and increased storminess into the mid-latitudes.
AO index is obtained by projecting the AO loading pattern to the daily anomaly 1000 millibar height field over 20°N-90°N latitude. The AO loading pattern has been chosen as the first mode of EOF analysis using monthly mean 1000 millibar height anomaly data from 1979 to 2000 over 20°N-90°N. For more information on the AO, please see CPC's AO page.