New Perspectives on the Northern Hemisphere Winter Storm Tracks

Brian J. Hoskins Department of Meteorology, The University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom

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Kevin I. Hodges Environmental Systems Science Centre, The University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom

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Abstract

The aim of this paper is to explore the use of both an Eulerian and system-centered method of storm track diagnosis applied to a wide range of meteorological fields at multiple levels to provide a range of perspectives on the Northern Hemisphere winter transient motions and to give new insight into the storm track organization and behavior. The data used are primarily from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts reanalyses project extended with operational analyses to the period 1979–2000. This is supplemented by data from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction and Goddard Earth Observing System 1 reanalyses. The range of fields explored include the usual mean sea level pressure and the lower- and upper-tropospheric height, meridional wind, vorticity, and temperature, as well as the potential vorticity (PV) on a 330-K isentropic surface (PV330) and potential temperature on a PV = 2 PVU surface (θPV2). As well as reporting the primary analysis based on feature tracking, the standard Eulerian 2–6-day bandpass filtered variance analysis is also reported and contrasted with the tracking diagnostics. To enable the feature points to be identified as extrema for all the chosen fields, a planetary wave background structure is removed at each data time. The bandpass filtered variance derived from the different fields yield a rich picture of the nature and comparative magnitudes of the North Pacific and Atlantic storm tracks, and of the Siberian and Mediterranean candidates for storm tracks. The feature tracking allows the cyclonic and anticyclonic activities to be considered seperately. The analysis indicates that anticyclonic features are generally much weaker with less coherence than the cyclonic systems. Cyclones and features associated with them are shown to have much greater coherence and give tracking diagnostics that create a vivid storm track picture that includes the aspects highlighted by the variances as well as highlighting aspects that are not readily available from Eulerian studies. In particular, the upper-tropospheric features as shown by negative θPV2, for example, occur in a band spiraling around the hemisphere from the subtropical North Atlantic eastward to the high latitudes of the same ocean basin. Lower-troposphere storm tracks occupy more limited longitudinal sectors, with many of the individual storms possibly triggered from the upper-tropospheric disturbances in the spiral band of activity.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Kevin I. Hodges, ESSC, The University of Reading, Harry Pitt Bldg., 3 Earley Gate, Whiteknights, P.O. Box 238, Reading RG6 6AL, United Kingdom. Email: kih@mail.nerc-essc.ac.uk

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to explore the use of both an Eulerian and system-centered method of storm track diagnosis applied to a wide range of meteorological fields at multiple levels to provide a range of perspectives on the Northern Hemisphere winter transient motions and to give new insight into the storm track organization and behavior. The data used are primarily from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts reanalyses project extended with operational analyses to the period 1979–2000. This is supplemented by data from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction and Goddard Earth Observing System 1 reanalyses. The range of fields explored include the usual mean sea level pressure and the lower- and upper-tropospheric height, meridional wind, vorticity, and temperature, as well as the potential vorticity (PV) on a 330-K isentropic surface (PV330) and potential temperature on a PV = 2 PVU surface (θPV2). As well as reporting the primary analysis based on feature tracking, the standard Eulerian 2–6-day bandpass filtered variance analysis is also reported and contrasted with the tracking diagnostics. To enable the feature points to be identified as extrema for all the chosen fields, a planetary wave background structure is removed at each data time. The bandpass filtered variance derived from the different fields yield a rich picture of the nature and comparative magnitudes of the North Pacific and Atlantic storm tracks, and of the Siberian and Mediterranean candidates for storm tracks. The feature tracking allows the cyclonic and anticyclonic activities to be considered seperately. The analysis indicates that anticyclonic features are generally much weaker with less coherence than the cyclonic systems. Cyclones and features associated with them are shown to have much greater coherence and give tracking diagnostics that create a vivid storm track picture that includes the aspects highlighted by the variances as well as highlighting aspects that are not readily available from Eulerian studies. In particular, the upper-tropospheric features as shown by negative θPV2, for example, occur in a band spiraling around the hemisphere from the subtropical North Atlantic eastward to the high latitudes of the same ocean basin. Lower-troposphere storm tracks occupy more limited longitudinal sectors, with many of the individual storms possibly triggered from the upper-tropospheric disturbances in the spiral band of activity.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Kevin I. Hodges, ESSC, The University of Reading, Harry Pitt Bldg., 3 Earley Gate, Whiteknights, P.O. Box 238, Reading RG6 6AL, United Kingdom. Email: kih@mail.nerc-essc.ac.uk

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