Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics

, Volume 51, Issue 3–4, pp 147–164 | Cite as

Characteristics of Arctic synoptic activity, 1952–1989

  • M. C. Serreze
  • J. E. Box
  • R. G. Barry
  • J. E. Walsh
Large-Scale Circulation


Synoptic activity for the Arctic is examined for the period 1952–1989 using the National Meteorological Center sea level pressure data set. Winter cyclone activity is most common near Iceland, between Svalbard and Scandinavia, the Norwegian and Kara seas, Baffin Bay and the eastern Canadian Arctic Archipelago; the strongest systems are found in the Iceland and Norwegian seas. Mean cyclone tracks, prepared for 1975–1989, confirm that winter cyclones most frequently enter the Arctic from the Norwegian and Barents seas. Winter anticyclones are most frequent and strongest over Siberia and Alaska/Yukon, with additional frequency maxima of weaker systems found over the central Arctic Ocean and Greenland.

During summer, cyclonic activity remains common in the same regions as observed for winter, but increases over Siberia, the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and the Central Aretic, related to cyclogenesis over northern parts of Eurasia and North America. Eurasian cyclones tend to enter the Aretic Ocean from the Laptev Sea eastward to the Chukchi Sea, augmenting the influx of systems from the Norwegian and Barents seas. The Siberian and Alaska/Yukon anticyclone centers disappear, with anticyclone maxima forming over the Kara, Laptev, East Siberian and Beaufort seas, and southeastward across Canada. Summer cyclones and anticyclones exhibit little regional variability in mean central pressure, and are typically 5–10 mb weaker than their winter counterparts.

North of 65°N, cyclone and anticyclone activity peaks curing summer, and is at a minimum during winter. Trends in cyclone and anticyclone activity north of 65°N are examined through least squares regression. Since 1952, significant positive trends are found for cyclone numbers during winter, spring and summer, and for anticyclone numbers during spring, summer and autumn.


Cyclone Cyclone Track Canadian Arctic Archipelago Central Arctic Ocean Activity North 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barrodale, I., Roberts, F. D. K., 1974: Algorithm 478. Solution of an overdetermined system of equations in theL 1 norm.Commun. A.C.M. 7, 319–320.Google Scholar
  2. Barry, R. G., 1967: Seasonal location of the Arctic front over North America.Geogr. Bull.,9, 79–95.Google Scholar
  3. Barry, R. G., Crane, R. G., Schweiger, A., Newell, J., 1987: Aretic cloudiness in spring from satellite imagery.J. Climatol.,7, 423–451.Google Scholar
  4. Bell, G. D., Bosart, L. F., 1989: A 15-year climatology of Northern Hemisphere 500 mb closed cyclone and anticyclone centers.Mon. Wea. Rev.,117, 2142–2163.Google Scholar
  5. Bilello, M. A., 1966: Survey of Arctic and Subarctic temperature inversions.Tech Rep. 161, Cold Regions Res. and Eng. Lab., Hanover, N.H., 36 pp.Google Scholar
  6. Borisov, A. A., 1965:Climates of the U.S.S.R., Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 255 pp.Google Scholar
  7. Bradley, R. S., England, J., 1979: Synoptic climatology of the Canadian High Arctic.Geografiska Annaler,61A, 187–201.Google Scholar
  8. Bradley, R. S., Keimig, F. T., Diaz, H. F., 1993: Recent changes in the north American Arctic boundary layer in winter.J. Geophys. Res. (in press).Google Scholar
  9. Bryson, R. A., 1966: Air masses, streamlines and the boreal forest.Geogr. Bull.,8, 228–269.Google Scholar
  10. Carleton, A. M., 1985: Synoptic cryosphere-atmosphere interactions in the northern hemisphere from DMSP image analysis.Int. J. Remote Sensing,6, 239–261.Google Scholar
  11. Chapman, W., Walsh, J. E., 1993: Recent variations of sea and air temperatures at high latitudes.Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc.,74(1), 33–47.Google Scholar
  12. Cubasch, U., Cess, R. D., 1990: Processes and modeling. In: Houghton, J. T., Jenkins, G. J., Ephraumus, J. J. (eds.)Climate Change, The IPCC Scientific Assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 364 pp.Google Scholar
  13. Dickson, R. R., Meincke, J., Marlberg, S. A., Lee, A. J., 1988: The “Great Salinity Anomaly” of the northern North Atlantic, 1968–1982.Prog. Oceanogr.,20, 103–151.Google Scholar
  14. Dorsey, H. G., Jr., 1945: Some meteorological aspects of the Greenland Ice Cap.J. Meteor.,2, 135–142.Google Scholar
  15. Dzerdzeevskii, B. L., 1945: Tsirkuliatsionnye skhemy v troposfere Tsentralnoi Arktiki,Izdatel'stvo Akademii Nauk, 28 pp. (English translation in Scientific Report No. 3 under Contract AF19(122)-228, Meteolology Department, UCLA).Google Scholar
  16. Gorshkov, S. G., 1983:World Ocean Atlas Vol. 3 Arctic Ocean. New York: Pergamon Press, 184 pp.Google Scholar
  17. Hansen, J., Lebedeff, S., 1987: Global trends of measured surface air temperature.J. Geophys. Res.,92, 13345–13372.Google Scholar
  18. Hare, F. K., 1968: The Arctic.Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc.,94, 439–459.Google Scholar
  19. Hare, F. K., Orvig, S., 1958: The arctic circulation: a preliminary view. Arctic Meteorology Research Group Publication in Meteorology, No. 12. Montreal: McGill University, 211 pp.Google Scholar
  20. Hastings, A. D., 1971: Surface climate of the Arctic basin, Report ETL-TR-71-5, U.S. Army Engineer Topographic Laboratories, Fort Belvoir, VA, 98 pp.Google Scholar
  21. Hayden, B. P., 1981a: Secular variation in Atlantic coast extratropical cyclones.Mon. Wea. Rev.,109, 159–167.Google Scholar
  22. Hayden, B. P., 1981b: Cyclone occurrence mapping: equal area or raw frequencies?Mon. Wea. Rev.,109, 168–172.Google Scholar
  23. Helmholtz, H. von, 1888: Über atmosphärische Bewegungen.Meteor. Zeit.,5, 329–340.Google Scholar
  24. Hibler, W. D. III, 1974: Differential sea ice drift II. Comparisons of mesoscale strain measurements to linear drift theory predictions.J. Glaciol.,13(69), 457–471.Google Scholar
  25. Hobbs, W. H., 1910: Characteristics of the inland ice of the Arctic regions.Amer. Phil. Soc.,49, 57–129.Google Scholar
  26. Hobbs, W. H., 1926:The Glacial Anticyclones, the Poles of the Atmospheric Circulation. New York: MacMillan, 198 pp.Google Scholar
  27. Hobbs, W. H., 1945: The Greenland glacial anticyclone.J. Meteor.,2, 143–153.Google Scholar
  28. Huschke, R. E., 1969: Arctic cloud statistics from “aircalibrated surface weather observations”, United States Air Force Project Rand Contract Number F44620-67-C-0015.Google Scholar
  29. Jones, P. D., 1987: The twentieth century Arctic high-fact or fiction?Clim. Dynam.,1, 63–75.Google Scholar
  30. Keegan, T. J., 1958: Arctic synoptic activity in winter.J. Meteor.,15, 513–521.Google Scholar
  31. Krebs, S. J., Barry, R. G., 1970: The arctic front and the tundra-taiga boundary.Geogr. Rev.,60, 548–554.Google Scholar
  32. LeDrew, E. F., 1983: Dynamic climatology of the Beaufort to Laptev Sea sector of the polar basin for the summers of 1975 and 1976.J. Climate Appl. Meteor.,3, 335–359.Google Scholar
  33. LeDrew, E. F., 1984: The role of local heat sources in synoptic activity in the Arctic Basin.Atmos. Ocean,22, 309–327.Google Scholar
  34. LeDrew, E. F., 1987: Development processes for five depression systems within the Polar Basin.J. Climate Appl. Meteor.,8, 125–153.Google Scholar
  35. LeDrew, E. F., Johnson, D., Maslanik, J. A., 1991: An examination of atmospheric mechanisms that may be responsible for the annual reversal of the Beaufort Gyre sea ice fields.Int. J. Climatology,11, 841–859.Google Scholar
  36. Loewe, F., 1936: The Greenland ice cap as seen by a meteorologist.Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc.,62, 359–377.Google Scholar
  37. Mass, C., Edmon, H., 1987:Compact Disk of the National Meteorological Center Grid Point Data Set, General Information and User's Guide. Seattle: Dept. Atmos. Sci., Univ. Washington, 11 pp.Google Scholar
  38. Matthes, F. E., 1946: The glacial anticyclone theory examined in light of recent meteorological data from Greenland, Part I.Trans. Amer. Geophys. Union,27, 324–341.Google Scholar
  39. Matthes, F. E., Belmont, A. D., 1946: The glacial anticyclone theory examined in light of recent meteorological data from Greenland, Part II.Trans Amer. Geophys. Union,31, 174–182.Google Scholar
  40. Namias, J., 1958: The general circulation of the lower troposphere over Arctic regions and its relation to the general circulation elsewhere.Polar Atmosphere Symposium, Part I, Meteorology Section. New York: Pergamon Press, 45–61.Google Scholar
  41. Overland, J. E., Pease, C. H., 1982: Cyclone climatology of the Bering Sea and its relation to sea ice extent.Mon. Wea. Rev.,110(1), 5–13.Google Scholar
  42. Palmen, E., Newton, C. W., 1969:Atmospheric Circulation Systems, New York: Academic Press, 603 pp.Google Scholar
  43. Pettersen, S., 1950: Some aspects of the general circulation of the atmosphere.Centenary Proc. of the Royal Meteorological Society, London, 120–153.Google Scholar
  44. Putnins, P., 1970: The climate of Greenland. In: Orvig, S. (ed.)Climates of the Polar Regions (World Survey of Climatology, vol. 14). Amsterdam: Elsevier, 3–124.Google Scholar
  45. Rae, R. W., 1951:The Climate of the Canadian Archipelago. Toronto: Department of Transport, 90 pp.Google Scholar
  46. Reed, R. J., Kunkel, B. A., 1960: The arctic circulation in summer.J. Meteor.,17, 489–506.Google Scholar
  47. Robinson, D. A., Serreze, M. C., Barry, R. G., Scharfen, G., Kukla, G., 1992: Large-scale patterns and variability of snow melt and parameterized surface albedo in the Arctic Basin.J. Climate. 5(10), 1109–1119.Google Scholar
  48. Schlesinger, M. E. (ed.), 1988:Physically Based Modeling and Simulation of Climate and Climate change. Kluwer Academic, 1084 pp. (NATO ASI Series C, Vol. 243Google Scholar
  49. Serreze, M. C., Barry, R. G., 1988: Synoptic activity in the Arctic Basin, 1979–85.J. Climate,1(12), 1276–1295.Google Scholar
  50. Serreze, M. C., Barry, R. G., McLaren, A. S., 1989: Seasonal variations in sea ice motion and effects on sea ice concentration in the Canada Basin.J. Geophys. Res.,94, 10,955–10,970.Google Scholar
  51. Serreze, M. C., Kahl, J. D., Schnell, R. C., 1992: Low-level temperature inversions of the Eurasian Arctic and comparisons with Soviet drifting station data.J. Climate,5(6), 615–629.Google Scholar
  52. Sverdrup, H. U., 1983:The Norwegian North Polar Expedition with the “Maud”, 1918–1925, Volume II: Meteorology. Bergen: John Griegs Boktrykkeri, 331 pp.Google Scholar
  53. Taylor, K. E., 1986: An analysis of the biases in traditional cyclone frequency maps.Mon. Wea. Rev.,114, 1481–1490.Google Scholar
  54. Thorndike, A. S., Colony, R., 1980:Arctic Ocean Buoy Program Data Report, 1 January 1979–31 December 1979. Polar Science Center, University of Washington, Seattle, 131 pp.Google Scholar
  55. Trenberth, K. E., Olson, J. G., 1988: Evaluation of NMC global analyses: 1979–1987,NCAR Technical Note, NCAR/TN-299+STR, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, 82 pp.Google Scholar
  56. Trenberth, K. E., Paolino, D. A., 1980: The northern hemisphere sea level pressure data set: trends, errors and discontinuities.Mon. Wea. Rev.,108(7), 855–872.Google Scholar
  57. U. K. Meteorological Office, 1964:Weather in Home Fleet Waters. Volume 1 — The Northern Seas, Part 1. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 265 pp.Google Scholar
  58. Walker, J. M., 1967: Subterranean isobars.Weather,22(7), 296–297.Google Scholar
  59. Walsh, J. E., 1978: Spatial and temporal scales of the Arctic circulation.Mon. Wea. Rev.,106, 1532–1544.Google Scholar
  60. Walsh, J. E., Chapman, W. L., 1990: Short-term climatie variability of the Arctic.J. Climate,3(2), 237–250.Google Scholar
  61. Walsh, J. E., Crane, R. G., 1992: A comparison of GCM simulations of Arctic climate.Geophys. Res. Lett.,19, 29–32.Google Scholar
  62. Walsh, J. E., Johnson, C. M., 1979: Interannual atmospheric variability and associated fluctuations in Arctic sea ice extent.J. Geophys. Res.,34, 6915–6928.Google Scholar
  63. Washington, W. M., Meehl, G. A., 1989: Climate sensitivity due to increased CO2: experiments with a coupled atmosphere and ocean general circulation model.Clim. Dynam.,4(1), 1–38.Google Scholar
  64. Whittaker, L. M., Horn, L. H., 1984: Northern Hemisphere extratropical cyclone activity for four mid-season months.J. Climatology,4, 297–310.Google Scholar
  65. Wilson, C. V., 1958: Synoptic regimes of the lower Arctic troposphere during 1955.Arctic Meteorology Research Group, Publication in Meteorology No. 8. Monteral: McGill University, 57 pp.Google Scholar
  66. Zishka, K. M., Smith, P. J., 1980: The climatology of cyclones and anticyclones over North American and surrounding ocean environs for January and July, 1950–1977.Mon. Wea. Rev.,108, 387–401.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. C. Serreze
    • 1
  • J. E. Box
    • 1
  • R. G. Barry
    • 1
  • J. E. Walsh
    • 2
  1. 1.Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental SciencesUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Department of Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA

Personalised recommendations