Are the Northern Hemisphere Winter Storm Tracks Significantly Correlated?

Edmund K. M. Chang Institute for Terrestrial and Planetary Atmospheres, Marine Sciences Research Center, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York

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Abstract

In this study, the correlation between the Northern Hemisphere winter Pacific and Atlantic storm tracks is examined using the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis and the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40), as well as unassimilated aircraft observations. By examining month-to-month variability in the 250-hPa meridional velocity variance, the correlation between the two storm track peaks is found to be as high as 0.5 during the winters between 1975/76 and 1998/99. Here, it is shown that the correlation between the two storm tracks can be clearly detected from the aircraft data. Further analyses of the reanalysis data show that the correlation can also be seen in other eddy variance and covariance statistics, including the poleward heat flux at the 700-hPa level.

The correlation between the two storm tracks, as seen in both reanalysis datasets, is shown to be much weaker during the period 1957/58–1971/72, suggesting a possible regime transition from largely uncorrelated storm tracks to highly correlated storm tracks during the 1970s. However, during this earlier period, the number of aircraft observations is insufficient to verify the low correlation seen in the reanalyses. Thus, low biases in the reanalyses during the earlier period cannot be ruled out.

An ensemble of four GCM simulations performed using the GFDL GCM forced by global observed SST variations between 1950 and 1995 has also been examined. The correlation between the two storm tracks in the GCM simulations is much lower (0.18) than that observed, even if the analysis is restricted to the GCM simulations from the period 1975/76–1994/95. A Monte Carlo test shows that the observed correlation and the GCM correlation are statistically distinct at the 1% level.

Correlations between the Southern Hemisphere summer Pacific and Atlantic storm tracks have also been examined based on the reanalyses datasets. The results suggest that the amplitude of the SH summer Pacific and Atlantic storm tracks are not significantly correlated, showing that seeding of the Atlantic storm track by the Pacific storm track does not necessarily lead to significant correlations between the two storm tracks.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Edmund K. M. Chang, Institute for Terrestrial and Planetary Atmospheres, Marine Sciences Research Center, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5000. Email: kmchang@notes.cc.sunysb.edu

Abstract

In this study, the correlation between the Northern Hemisphere winter Pacific and Atlantic storm tracks is examined using the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis and the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40), as well as unassimilated aircraft observations. By examining month-to-month variability in the 250-hPa meridional velocity variance, the correlation between the two storm track peaks is found to be as high as 0.5 during the winters between 1975/76 and 1998/99. Here, it is shown that the correlation between the two storm tracks can be clearly detected from the aircraft data. Further analyses of the reanalysis data show that the correlation can also be seen in other eddy variance and covariance statistics, including the poleward heat flux at the 700-hPa level.

The correlation between the two storm tracks, as seen in both reanalysis datasets, is shown to be much weaker during the period 1957/58–1971/72, suggesting a possible regime transition from largely uncorrelated storm tracks to highly correlated storm tracks during the 1970s. However, during this earlier period, the number of aircraft observations is insufficient to verify the low correlation seen in the reanalyses. Thus, low biases in the reanalyses during the earlier period cannot be ruled out.

An ensemble of four GCM simulations performed using the GFDL GCM forced by global observed SST variations between 1950 and 1995 has also been examined. The correlation between the two storm tracks in the GCM simulations is much lower (0.18) than that observed, even if the analysis is restricted to the GCM simulations from the period 1975/76–1994/95. A Monte Carlo test shows that the observed correlation and the GCM correlation are statistically distinct at the 1% level.

Correlations between the Southern Hemisphere summer Pacific and Atlantic storm tracks have also been examined based on the reanalyses datasets. The results suggest that the amplitude of the SH summer Pacific and Atlantic storm tracks are not significantly correlated, showing that seeding of the Atlantic storm track by the Pacific storm track does not necessarily lead to significant correlations between the two storm tracks.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Edmund K. M. Chang, Institute for Terrestrial and Planetary Atmospheres, Marine Sciences Research Center, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5000. Email: kmchang@notes.cc.sunysb.edu

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