Storm tracks and climate change
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/JCLI3815.1
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.