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Brian J. Hoskins
and
Kevin I. Hodges

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 (θ PV2). 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 θ PV2, 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.

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Lennart Bengtsson
,
Kevin I. Hodges
, and
Erich Roeckner

Abstract

Extratropical and tropical transient storm tracks are investigated from the perspective of feature tracking in the ECHAM5 coupled climate model for the current and a future climate scenario. The atmosphere-only part of the model, forced by observed boundary conditions, produces results that agree well with analyses from the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40), including the distribution of storms as a function of maximum intensity. This provides the authors with confidence in the use of the model for the climate change experiments. The statistical distribution of storm intensities is virtually preserved under climate change using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) A1B scenario until the end of this century. There are no indications in this study of more intense storms in the future climate, either in the Tropics or extratropics, but rather a minor reduction in the number of weaker storms. However, significant changes occur on a regional basis in the location and intensity of storm tracks. There is a clear poleward shift in the Southern Hemisphere with consequences of reduced precipitation for several areas, including southern Australia. Changes in the Northern Hemisphere are less distinct, but there are also indications of a poleward shift, a weakening of the Mediterranean storm track, and a strengthening of the storm track north of the British Isles. The tropical storm tracks undergo considerable changes including a weakening in the Atlantic sector and a strengthening and equatorward shift in the eastern Pacific. It is suggested that some of the changes, in particular the tropical ones, are due to an SST warming maximum in the eastern Pacific. The shift in the extratropical storm tracks is shown to be associated with changes in the zonal SST gradient in particular for the Southern Hemisphere.

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Lennart Bengtsson
,
Kevin I. Hodges
, and
Noel Keenlyside

Abstract

Extratropical cyclones and how they may change in a warmer climate have been investigated in detail with a high-resolution version of the ECHAM5 global climate model. A spectral resolution of T213 (63 km) is used for two 32-yr periods at the end of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and integrated for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) A1B scenario. Extremes of pressure, vorticity, wind, and precipitation associated with the cyclones are investigated and compared with a lower-resolution simulation. Comparison with observations of extreme wind speeds indicates that the model reproduces realistic values.

This study also investigates the ability of the model to simulate extratropical cyclones by computing composites of intense storms and contrasting them with the same composites from the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40). Composites of the time evolution of intense cyclones are reproduced with great fidelity; in particular the evolution of central surface pressure is almost exactly replicated, but vorticity, maximum wind speed, and precipitation are higher in the model. Spatial composites also show that the distributions of pressure, winds, and precipitation at different stages of the cyclone life cycle compare well with those from ERA-40, as does the vertical structure.

For the twenty-first century, changes in the distribution of storms are very similar to those of previous study. There is a small reduction in the number of cyclones but no significant changes in the extremes of wind and vorticity in both hemispheres. There are larger regional changes in agreement with previous studies.

The largest changes are in the total precipitation, where a significant increase is seen. Cumulative precipitation along the tracks of the cyclones increases by some 11% per track, or about twice the increase in global precipitation, while the extreme precipitation is close to the globally averaged increase in column water vapor (some 27%). Regionally, changes in extreme precipitation are even higher because of changes in the storm tracks.

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Lizzie S. R. Froude
,
Lennart Bengtsson
, and
Kevin I. Hodges

Abstract

A new method for assessing forecast skill and predictability that involves the identification and tracking of extratropical cyclones has been developed and implemented to obtain detailed information about the prediction of cyclones that cannot be obtained from more conventional analysis methodologies. The cyclones were identified and tracked along the forecast trajectories, and statistics were generated to determine the rate at which the position and intensity of the forecasted storms diverge from the analyzed tracks as a function of forecast lead time. The results show a higher level of skill in predicting the position of extratropical cyclones than the intensity. They also show that there is potential to improve the skill in predicting the position by 1–1.5 days and the intensity by 2–3 days, via improvements to the forecast model. Further analysis shows that forecasted storms move at a slower speed than analyzed storms on average and that there is a larger error in the predicted amplitudes of intense storms than the weaker storms. The results also show that some storms can be predicted up to 3 days before they are identified as an 850-hPa vorticity center in the analyses. In general, the results show a higher level of skill in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) than the Southern Hemisphere (SH); however, the rapid growth of NH winter storms is not very well predicted. The impact that observations of different types have on the prediction of the extratropical cyclones has also been explored, using forecasts integrated from analyses that were constructed from reduced observing systems. A terrestrial, satellite, and surface-based system were investigated and the results showed that the predictive skill of the terrestrial system was superior to the satellite system in the NH. Further analysis showed that the satellite system was not very good at predicting the growth of the storms. In the SH the terrestrial system has significantly less skill than the satellite system, highlighting the dominance of satellite observations in this hemisphere. The surface system has very poor predictive skill in both hemispheres.

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Lizzie S. R. Froude
,
Lennart Bengtsson
, and
Kevin I. Hodges

Abstract

The prediction of extratropical cyclones by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) ensemble prediction systems (EPSs) has been investigated using an objective feature tracking methodology to identify and track the cyclones along the forecast trajectories. Overall the results show that the ECMWF EPS has a slightly higher level of skill than the NCEP EPS in the Northern Hemisphere (NH). However in the Southern Hemisphere (SH), NCEP has higher predictive skill than ECMWF for the intensity of the cyclones. The results from both EPSs indicate a higher level of predictive skill for the position of extratropical cyclones than their intensity and show that there is a larger spread in intensity than position. Further analysis shows that the predicted propagation speed of cyclones is generally too slow for the ECMWF EPS and shows a slight bias for the intensity of the cyclones to be overpredicted. This is also true for the NCEP EPS in the SH. For the NCEP EPS in the NH the intensity of the cyclones is underpredicted. There is small bias in both the EPS for the cyclones to be displaced toward the poles. For each ensemble forecast of each cyclone, the predictive skill of the ensemble member that best predicts the cyclone’s position and intensity was computed. The results are very encouraging showing that the predictive skill of the best ensemble member is significantly higher than that of the control forecast in terms of both the position and intensity of the cyclones. The prediction of cyclones before they are identified as 850-hPa vorticity centers in the analysis cycle was also considered. It is shown that an indication of extratropical cyclones can be given by at least 1 ensemble member 7 days before they are identified in the analysis. Further analysis of the ECMWF EPS shows that the ensemble mean has a higher level of skill than the control forecast, particularly for the intensity of the cyclones, from day 3 of the forecast. There is a higher level of skill in the NH than the SH and the spread in the SH is correspondingly larger. The difference between the ensemble mean error and spread is very small for the position of the cyclones, but the spread of the ensemble is smaller than the ensemble mean error for the intensity of the cyclones in both hemispheres. Results also show that the ECMWF control forecast has ½ to 1 day more skill than the perturbed members, for both the position and intensity of the cyclones, throughout the forecast.

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Jennifer L. Catto
,
Len C. Shaffrey
, and
Kevin I. Hodges

Abstract

Changes to the Northern Hemisphere winter (December–February) extratropical storm tracks and cyclones in a warming climate are investigated. Two idealized climate change experiments with the High Resolution Global Environmental Model version 1.1 (HiGEM1.1), a doubled CO2 and a quadrupled CO2 experiment, are compared against a present-day control run. An objective feature tracking method is used and a focus is given to regional changes. The climatology of extratropical storm tracks from the control run is shown to be in good agreement with the 40-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Re-Analysis (ERA-40), while the frequency distribution of cyclone intensity also compares well.

In both simulations the mean climate changes are generally consistent with the simulations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) models, with strongly enhanced surface warming at the winter pole and reduced lower-tropospheric warming over the North Atlantic Ocean associated with the slowdown of the meridional overturning circulation. The circulation changes in the North Atlantic are different between the two idealized simulations with different CO2 forcings. In the North Atlantic the storm tracks are influenced by the slowdown of the MOC, the enhanced surface polar warming, and the enhanced upper tropical-troposphere warming, giving a northeastward shift of the storm tracks in the 2 × CO2 experiment but no shift in the 4 × CO2 experiment.

Over the Pacific, in the 2 × CO2 experiment, changes in the mean climate are associated with local temperature changes, while in the 4 × CO2 experiment the changes in the Pacific are impacted by the weakened tropical circulation. The storm-track changes are consistent with the shifts in the zonal wind.

Total cyclone numbers are found to decrease over the Northern Hemisphere with increasing CO2 forcing. Changes in cyclone intensity are found using 850-hPa vorticity, mean sea level pressure, and 850-hPa winds. The intensity of the Northern Hemisphere cyclones is found to decrease relative to the control.

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Giuseppe Zappa
,
Len C. Shaffrey
, and
Kevin I. Hodges

Abstract

The ability of the climate models participating in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) to simulate North Atlantic extratropical cyclones in winter [December–February (DJF)] and summer [June–August (JJA)] is investigated in detail. Cyclones are identified as maxima in T42 vorticity at 850 hPa and their propagation is tracked using an objective feature-tracking algorithm. By comparing the historical CMIP5 simulations (1976–2005) and the ECMWF Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim; 1979–2008), the authors find that systematic biases affect the number and intensity of North Atlantic cyclones in CMIP5 models. In DJF, the North Atlantic storm track tends to be either too zonal or displaced southward, thus leading to too few and weak cyclones over the Norwegian Sea and too many cyclones in central Europe. In JJA, the position of the North Atlantic storm track is generally well captured but some CMIP5 models underestimate the total number of cyclones. The dynamical intensity of cyclones, as measured by either T42 vorticity at 850 hPa or mean sea level pressure, is too weak in both DJF and JJA. The intensity bias has a hemispheric character, and it cannot be simply attributed to the representation of the North Atlantic large-scale atmospheric state. Despite these biases, the representation of Northern Hemisphere (NH) storm tracks has improved since CMIP3 and some CMIP5 models are able of representing well both the number and the intensity of North Atlantic cyclones. In particular, some of the higher-atmospheric-resolution models tend to have a better representation of the tilt of the North Atlantic storm track and of the intensity of cyclones in DJF.

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Lennart Bengtsson
,
Kevin I. Hodges
,
Symeon Koumoutsaris
,
Matthias Zahn
, and
Paul Berrisford

Abstract

Energy fluxes for polar regions are examined for two 30-yr periods, representing the end of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, using data from high-resolution simulations with the ECHAM5 climate model. The net radiation to space for the present climate agrees well with data from the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) over the northern polar region but shows an underestimation in planetary albedo for the southern polar region. This suggests there are systematic errors in the atmospheric circulation or in the net surface energy fluxes in the southern polar region. The simulation of the future climate is based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) A1B scenario. The total energy transport is broadly the same for the two 30-yr periods, but there is an increase in the moist energy transport on the order of 6 W m−2 and a corresponding reduction in the dry static energy. For the southern polar region the proportion of moist energy transport is larger and the dry static energy correspondingly smaller for both periods.

The results suggest a possible mechanism for the warming of the Arctic that is discussed. Changes between the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the northern polar region show the net ocean surface radiation flux in summer increases ~18 W m−2 (24%). For the southern polar region the response is different as there is a decrease in surface solar radiation. It is suggested that this is caused by changes in cloudiness associated with the poleward migration of the storm tracks.

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Jennifer L. Catto
,
Len C. Shaffrey
, and
Kevin I. Hodges

Abstract

Composites of wind speeds, equivalent potential temperature, mean sea level pressure, vertical velocity, and relative humidity have been produced for the 100 most intense extratropical cyclones in the Northern Hemisphere winter for the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40) and the high resolution global environment model (HiGEM). Features of conceptual models of cyclone structure—the warm conveyor belt, cold conveyor belt, and dry intrusion—have been identified in the composites from ERA-40 and compared to HiGEM. Such features can be identified in the composite fields despite the smoothing that occurs in the compositing process. The surface features and the three-dimensional structure of the cyclones in HiGEM compare very well with those from ERA-40. The warm conveyor belt is identified in the temperature and wind fields as a mass of warm air undergoing moist isentropic uplift and is very similar in ERA-40 and HiGEM. The rate of ascent is lower in HiGEM, associated with a shallower slope of the moist isentropes in the warm sector. There are also differences in the relative humidity fields in the warm conveyor belt. In ERA-40, the high values of relative humidity are strongly associated with the moist isentropic uplift, whereas in HiGEM these are not so strongly associated. The cold conveyor belt is identified as rearward flowing air that undercuts the warm conveyor belt and produces a low-level jet, and is very similar in HiGEM and ERA-40. The dry intrusion is identified in the 500-hPa vertical velocity and relative humidity. The structure of the dry intrusion compares well between HiGEM and ERA-40 but the descent is weaker in HiGEM because of weaker along-isentrope flow behind the composite cyclone. HiGEM’s ability to represent the key features of extratropical cyclone structure can give confidence in future predictions from this model.

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Yolande L. Serra
,
George N. Kiladis
, and
Kevin I. Hodges

Abstract

Easterly waves (EWs) are prominent features of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), found in both the Atlantic and Pacific during the Northern Hemisphere summer and fall, where they commonly serve as precursors to hurricanes over both basins. A large proportion of Atlantic EWs are known to form over Africa, but the origin of EWs over the Caribbean and east Pacific in particular has not been established in detail. In this study reanalyses are used to examine the coherence of the large-scale wave signatures and to obtain track statistics and energy conversion terms for EWs across this region. Regression analysis demonstrates that some EW kinematic structures readily propagate between the Atlantic and east Pacific, with the highest correlations observed across Costa Rica and Panama. Track statistics are consistent with this analysis and suggest that some individual waves are maintained as they pass from the Atlantic into the east Pacific, whereas others are generated locally in the Caribbean and east Pacific. Vortex anomalies associated with the waves are observed on the leeward side of the Sierra Madre, propagating northwestward along the coast, consistent with previous modeling studies of the interactions between zonal flow and EWs with model topography similar to the Sierra Madre. An energetics analysis additionally indicates that the Caribbean low-level jet and its extension into the east Pacific—known as the Papagayo jet—are a source of energy for EWs in the region. Two case studies support these statistics, as well as demonstrate the modulation of EW track and storm development location by the MJO.

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