Will Extratropical Storms Intensify in a Warmer Climate?
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/2008JCLI2678.1
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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