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Chris Wilson
Bablu Sinha
, and
Richard G. Williams


The control of atmospheric storm tracks by ocean dynamics, orography, and their interaction is investigated using idealized experiments with a simplified coupled atmosphere–ocean climate model. The study focuses on the quasi–steady state for the storm tracks in the Northern Hemisphere winter mean. The experiments start with a background state without mountains and ocean dynamics, and in separate stages include orography and a dynamic ocean to obtain a more realistic control simulation. The separate effects of ocean dynamics, orography, and their nonlinear interaction are identified for the storm tracks and the surface thermodynamic forcing over the ocean.

The model study suggests that atmospheric storm tracks are a robust feature of the climate system, occurring at midlatitudes even if there is no orographic forcing or ocean heat transport. Ocean dynamics generally lead to a poleward shift in both the storm track and the maximum in atmospheric northward heat transport and induce a northeastward tilt over the Atlantic. This poleward shift is linked to the extra heat transport by the ocean and the tightening of sea surface temperature gradients on the western side of ocean basins. Orographic forcing causes along-track variability with a weakening of the storm track over the continents and induces a northeastward tilt over the western Pacific, which is associated with a stationary planetary wave train generated by the Tibetan Plateau. The interaction between ocean dynamics and orographic forcing plays a localized role, enhancing the contrast between the Atlantic and Pacific. Much of the response to the forcing is eddy mediated and transient eddies help to spread the influence of orographic and ocean forcing.

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