The characteristics and structure of extra-tropical cyclones in a warmer climate

Sinclair, Victoria A.; Rantanen, Mika; Haapanala, Päivi; Räisänen, Jouni; Järvinen, Heikki

Little is known about how the structure of extra-tropical cyclones will change in the future. In this study aqua-planet simulations are performed with a full-complexity atmospheric model. These experiments can be considered an intermediate step towards increasing knowledge of how, and why, extra-tropical cyclones respond to warming. A control simulation and a warm simulation in which the sea surface temperatures are increased uniformly by 4 K are run for 11 years. Extra-tropical cyclones are tracked, cyclone composites created, and the omega equation applied to assess causes of changes in vertical motion. Warming leads to a 3.3 % decrease in the number of extra-tropical cyclones, with no change to the median intensity or lifetime of extra-tropical cyclones but to a broadening of the intensity distribution resulting in both more stronger and more weaker storms. Composites of the strongest extra-tropical cyclones show that total column water vapour increases everywhere relative to the cyclone centre and that precipitation increases by up to 50 % with the 4 K warming. The spatial structure of the composite cyclone changes with warming: the 900–700 hPa layer averaged potential vorticity, 700 hPa ascent, and precipitation maximums associated with the warm front all move polewards and downstream, and the area of ascent expands in the downstream direction. Increases in ascent forced by diabatic heating and thermal advection are responsible for the displacement, whereas increases in ascent due to vorticity advection lead to the downstream expansion. Finally, maximum values of ascent due to vorticity advection and thermal advection weaken slightly with warming, whereas those attributed to diabatic heating increase. Thus, cyclones in warmer climates are more diabatically driven.



Sinclair, Victoria A. / Rantanen, Mika / Haapanala, Päivi / et al: The characteristics and structure of extra-tropical cyclones in a warmer climate. 2020. Copernicus Publications.


Rechteinhaber: Victoria A. Sinclair et al.

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