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Northern Hemisphere climate responds sensitively to multidecadal variability in North Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST). It is therefore surprising that an imprint of such variability is conspicuously absent in wintertime western European temperature, despite that Europe's climate is strongly influenced by its neighbouring ocean, where multidecadal variability in basin-average SST persists in all seasons. Here we trace the cause of this missing imprint to a dynamic anomaly of the atmospheric circulation that masks its thermodynamic response to SST anomalies. Specifically, differences in the pathways Lagrangian particles take to Europe during anomalous SST winters suppress the expected fluctuations in air–sea heat exchange accumulated along those trajectories. Because decadal variability in North Atlantic-average SST may be driven partly by the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), the atmosphere's dynamical adjustment to this mode of variability may have important implications for the European wintertime temperature response to a projected twenty-first century AMOC decline.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.