What limits our ability to characterize the variability of the large scale circulation of the extratropics?

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Please see our paper Quantifying the variability of the annular modes: Reanalysis uncertainty vs. sampling uncertainty, just accepted in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Patrick Martineau and I show that reanalyses have gotten quite good, and we are chiefly limited by the finite length of the observational records. In this sense, we are starved for data, not model physics!