Seasonality, Latitudinal Dependence, and Structural Evolution of Arctic Cyclones

Mingshi Yang aUniversity of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, Illinois

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Zhuo Wang aUniversity of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, Illinois

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Robert M. Rauber aUniversity of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, Illinois

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John E. Walsh bUniversity of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska

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Abstract

Arctic cyclones (ACs) are an important component of the Arctic climate system. While previous studies focused on case studies or samples of intense ACs, an AC tracking algorithm is applied here to ERA5 to provide more than 9300 tracks. This large sample enables evaluations of seasonality, latitudinal dependence, and the structural evolution of ACs using storm-centered composite analysis and phase space analysis. The structures of ACs of different genesis regions, polar versus midlatitude, are also examined and compared. The results show that ACs typically have an asymmetric horizontal structure with cold air to the west and warm air to the east of the cyclone center. Cyclone asymmetry decreases, and the circulation becomes more barotropic in higher latitudes. ACs of polar origin are more symmetric than ACs of midlatitude origin and dominate the cyclone occurrences over the Arctic Ocean. Regarding seasonality, winter ACs are more intense and have a stronger horizontal asymmetry, and the cyclonic circulation extends higher into the stratosphere than summer ACs. In contrast, summer ACs have stronger warm anomalies in the lower stratosphere associated with subsidence above the cyclone center, and the cyclonic circulation typically does not extend beyond 50 hPa. The latitudinal and seasonal variations of AC structure are consistent with the latitudinal and seasonal differences in environmental baroclinicity. Additionally, our analyses show that the structural evolution of ACs is characterized by reduced vertical tilt and asymmetry, weakened temperature contrast between west and east sectors in troposphere, and reduced updraft strength in the later stage of the AC life cycle.

Significance Statement

Arctic cyclones play a crucial role in climate projections and risk assessments for Arctic infrastructure, transportation, and other human activities. This study aims to enhance our understanding of Arctic cyclone characteristics, including their origin, structure, seasonality, and evolution. We discovered that Arctic cyclones exhibit various structures in different environments. Their degrees of symmetry, vertical tilts, temperature contrasts, and updraft strengths vary with season, latitude, and life cycle stage.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Zhuo Wang, zhuowang@illinois.edu

Abstract

Arctic cyclones (ACs) are an important component of the Arctic climate system. While previous studies focused on case studies or samples of intense ACs, an AC tracking algorithm is applied here to ERA5 to provide more than 9300 tracks. This large sample enables evaluations of seasonality, latitudinal dependence, and the structural evolution of ACs using storm-centered composite analysis and phase space analysis. The structures of ACs of different genesis regions, polar versus midlatitude, are also examined and compared. The results show that ACs typically have an asymmetric horizontal structure with cold air to the west and warm air to the east of the cyclone center. Cyclone asymmetry decreases, and the circulation becomes more barotropic in higher latitudes. ACs of polar origin are more symmetric than ACs of midlatitude origin and dominate the cyclone occurrences over the Arctic Ocean. Regarding seasonality, winter ACs are more intense and have a stronger horizontal asymmetry, and the cyclonic circulation extends higher into the stratosphere than summer ACs. In contrast, summer ACs have stronger warm anomalies in the lower stratosphere associated with subsidence above the cyclone center, and the cyclonic circulation typically does not extend beyond 50 hPa. The latitudinal and seasonal variations of AC structure are consistent with the latitudinal and seasonal differences in environmental baroclinicity. Additionally, our analyses show that the structural evolution of ACs is characterized by reduced vertical tilt and asymmetry, weakened temperature contrast between west and east sectors in troposphere, and reduced updraft strength in the later stage of the AC life cycle.

Significance Statement

Arctic cyclones play a crucial role in climate projections and risk assessments for Arctic infrastructure, transportation, and other human activities. This study aims to enhance our understanding of Arctic cyclone characteristics, including their origin, structure, seasonality, and evolution. We discovered that Arctic cyclones exhibit various structures in different environments. Their degrees of symmetry, vertical tilts, temperature contrasts, and updraft strengths vary with season, latitude, and life cycle stage.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Zhuo Wang, zhuowang@illinois.edu

Supplementary Materials

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