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HOME > Monitoring and Data > Monitoring Weather & Climate > Blocking > Background

Atmospheric blocking is commonly referred to as the situation when the normal zonal flow is interrupted by strong and persistent meridional flow. The normal eastward progression of synoptic disturbances is obstructed leading to episodes of prolonged extreme weather conditions. On intraseasonal time scales the persistent weather extremes can last from several days up to a few weeks, often accompanied by significant temperature and precipitation anomalies. Examples of the 500 hPa height and anomaly fields associated with mature blocking episodes over the northeastern Atlantic and the North Pacific. These two regions are preferred areas for atmospheric blocking during the northern hemisphere cold season.

A common finding among scientific studies is that these long-lived weather extremes are associated with recurrent atmospheric flow anomalies. Numerous studies have found that the poor forecast skill beyond a few days results principally from the inability of numerical weather prediction models to simulate the onset and evolution of blocking flows.

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