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Chris Thorncroft and Kevin Hodges

Abstract

Automatic tracking of vorticity centers in European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts analyses has been used to develop a 20-yr climatology of African easterly wave activity. The tracking statistics at 600 and 850 mb confirm the complicated easterly wave structures present over the African continent. The rainy zone equatorward of 15°N is dominated by 600-mb activity, and the much drier Saharan region poleward of 15°N is more dominated by 850-mb activity. Over the Atlantic Ocean there is just one storm track with the 600- and 850-mb wave activity collocated. Based on growth/decay and genesis statistics, it appears that the 850-mb waves poleward of 15°N over land generally do not get involved with the equatorward storm track over the ocean. Instead, there appears to be significant development of 850-mb activity at the West African coast in the rainy zone around (10°N, 10°W), which, it is proposed, is associated with latent heat release.

Based on the tracking statistics, it has been shown that there is marked interannual variability in African easterly wave (AEW) activity. It is especially marked at the 850-mb level at the West African coast between about 10° and 15°N, where the coefficient of variation is 0.29. For the period between 1985 and 1998, a notable positive correlation is seen between this AEW activity and Atlantic tropical cyclone activity. This correlation is particularly strong for the postreanalysis period between 1994 and 1998. This result suggests that Atlantic tropical cyclone activity may be influenced by the number of AEWs leaving the West African coast, which have significant low-level amplitudes, and not simply by the total number of AEWs.

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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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Brian J. Hoskins and Kevin I. Hodges

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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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Kevin Hodges, Alison Cobb, and Pier Luigi Vidale

Abstract

Tropical cyclones (TCs) are identified and tracked in six recent reanalysis datasets and compared with those from the IBTrACS best-track archive. Results indicate that nearly every cyclone present in IBTrACS over the period 1979–2012 can be found in all six reanalyses using a tracking and matching approach. However, TC intensities are significantly underrepresented in the reanalyses compared to the observations. Applying a typical objective TC identification scheme, it is found that the largest uncertainties in TC identification occur for the weaker storms; this is exacerbated by uncertainties in the observations for weak storms and lack of consistency in operational procedures. For example, certain types of storms, such as tropical depressions, subtropical cyclones, and monsoon depressions, are not included in the best-track data for all reporting agencies. There are definite improvements in how well TCs are represented in more recent, higher-resolution reanalyses; in particular MERRA-2 is comparable with the NCEP-CFSR and JRA-55 reanalyses, which perform significantly better than the older MERRA reanalysis.

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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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Giuseppe Zappa, Len Shaffrey, and Kevin Hodges

Abstract

Polar lows are maritime mesocyclones associated with intense surface wind speeds and oceanic heat fluxes at high latitudes. The ability of the Interim ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim, hereafter ERAI) to represent polar lows in the North Atlantic is assessed by comparing ERAI and the ECMWF operational analysis for the period 2008–11. First, the representation of a set of satellite-observed polar lows over the Norwegian and Barents Seas in the operational analysis and ERAI is analyzed. Then, the possibility of directly identifying and tracking the polar lows in the operational analysis and ERAI is explored using a tracking algorithm based on 850-hPa vorticity with objective identification criteria on cyclone dynamical intensity and atmospheric static stability. All but one of the satellite-observed polar lows with a lifetime of at least 6 h have an 850-hPa vorticity signature of a collocated mesocyclone in both the operational analysis and ERAI for most of their life cycles. However, the operational analysis has vorticity structures that better resemble the observed cloud patterns and stronger surface wind speed intensities compared to those in ERAI. By applying the objective identification criteria, about 55% of the satellite-observed polar lows are identified and tracked in ERAI, while this fraction increases to about 70% in the operational analysis. Particularly in ERAI, the remaining observed polar lows are mainly not identified because they have too weak wind speed and vorticity intensity compared to the tested criteria. The implication of the tendency of ERAI to underestimate the polar low dynamical intensity for future studies of polar lows is discussed.

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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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Wataru Yanase, Hiroshi Niino, Kevin Hodges, and Naoko Kitabatake

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Objective cyclone tracking applied to a 30-yr reanalysis dataset shows that cyclone development in the summer and autumn seasons is active in the tropics and extratropics and inactive in the subtropics. To understand this geographically bimodal distribution of cyclone development associated with tropical and extratropical cyclones quantitatively, the direct relationship between cyclone types and their environments are assessed by using a parameter space of environmental variables [environmental parameter space (EPS)]. The number of cyclones is analyzed in terms of two different factors: the environmental conditions favorable for cyclone development and the area size that satisfies the favorable condition. The EPS analysis is mainly conducted for two representative environmental parameters that are commonly used for cyclone analysis: potential intensity for tropical cyclones and baroclinicity for extratropical cyclones. The geographically bimodal distribution is attributed to the high sensitivity of the cyclone development to the change in the environmental fields from tropics to extratropics. In addition, the bimodal distribution is partly attributed to the rapid change in the environmental fields from tropics to extratropics. The EPS analysis also shows that other environmental parameters, including relative humidity and vertical velocity, may enhance the contrast between the tropics (extratropics) and subtropics, whereas they are not essential for determining cyclone types. The relationship between cyclones and their environments is found to be similar between the hemispheres in the EPS, although the geographical distribution, particularly the longitudinal uniformity, is markedly different between the hemispheres.

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Julia Curio, Reinhard Schiemannm, Kevin I. Hodges, and Andrew G. Turner

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The Tibetan Plateau (TP) and surrounding high mountains constitute an important forcing of the atmospheric circulation due to their height and extent, and thereby impact weather and climate in downstream regions of East Asia. Mesoscale Tibetan Plateau vortices (TPVs) are one of the major precipitation-producing systems on the TP. A fraction of TPVs move off the TP to the east and can trigger extreme precipitation in parts of China, such as the Sichuan province and the Yangtze River valley, which can result in severe flooding. In this study, the climatology of TPV occurrence is examined in two reanalyses and, for the first time, in a high-resolution global climate model using an objective feature tracking algorithm. Most TPVs are generated in the northwestern part of the TP; the center of this main genesis region is small and stable throughout the year. The strength and position of the subtropical westerly jet is correlated to the distance TPVs can travel eastward and therefore could have an effect on whether or not a TPV is moving off the TP. TPV-associated precipitation can account for up to 40% of the total precipitation in parts of China in selected months, often due to individual TPVs. The results show that the global climate model is able to simulate TPVs at N512 (~25 km) horizontal resolution and in general agrees with the reanalyses. The fact that the global climate model can represent the TPV climatology opens a wide range of options for future model-based research on TPVs.

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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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