Abstract In this paper, a new two-dimensional blocking index is proposed by defining a difference between the daily 500-hPa geopotenial heights at the reference latitude and its north side. The reference latitude is determined by a composite latitude-dependent 500-hPa geopotenial height of blocking events in different seasons and sectors. The new index can take account of the duration, intensity, propagation, and spatial structure of a blocking event. Using this index, the characteristics (frequency, duration, intensity, and preferred occurrence region) of the blocking action in the North Hemisphere (NH) are investigated using a 42-yr sample of blocking events from the NCEP?NCAR reanalyses. It is found that blocking events in the NH are more frequent in the Atlantic?Europe sector than in the Pacific sector in winter and spring and autumn, but more persistent in the Atlantic?Europe sector than in the Pacific sector for all seasons. Blocking events in the Pacific sector tend to have larger amplitudes than the Atlantic counterparts. In addition, it is shown that in the NH independently occurring blocking events are most frequent, but simultaneously occurring blockings are rather rare, indicating that the blocking events in the NH should be a local phenomenon. On the other hand, a comparison with the existing indices [e.g., Tibaldi and Molteni (TM) index] indicates that in summer and autumn the new index shows similar longitudinal dependency of NH blocking events as does the TM index, but it shows two distinct action centers of blocking events in the Atlantic sector in winter and spring (in which the most frequent one is situated more westward) and an eastward blocking action center in the Pacific sector in spring and autumn, compared to the TM index. In addition, it is found that the new blocking index proposed here shows relatively low blocking frequency for all seasons compared to the TM index, especially in the Atlantic sector in spring and in the Pacific sector in winter and spring, which seems to be in agreement with the result obtained by Pelly and Hoskins using the PV?? index.
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