Climate Dynamics

, Volume 22, Issue 6–7, pp 757–769 | Cite as

Objective cyclone climatologies of the North Atlantic – a comparison between the ECMWF and NCEP Reanalyses

  • C. E. HansonEmail author
  • J. P. Palutikof
  • T. D. Davies


Simple and easily reproducible techniques have been used to construct two objective cyclone climatologies of the North Atlantic-European sector. The goal of this study is to increase understanding of cyclones with the potential to cause damage, in particular, those reaching Beaufort category 7 and above. The two climatologies constructed here span the period 1979–2000 and have been developed from reanalysis mean sea level pressure data from the ECMWF (European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts) and NCEP (National Centres for Environmental Prediction). The ECMWF reanalysis data are only available for 15 years, and have been extended from 1994 using operational analyses. The major temporal and spatial characteristics of North Atlantic cyclones are examined and a comparison between the climatologies developed from the two data sets is carried out. The well-known cyclogenesis regions along the east coast of the United States and to the southeast of Greenland are replicated by both reanalyses, as is the characteristic southwest/northeast orientation of the dominant cyclone track across the Atlantic basin. However, only weak correlations are found between the time series of cyclone frequency produced from the two reanalyses, and this is particularly true for the lower intensity Beaufort Scale category 0–6 cyclones. This result, together with the large differences in the spatial distribution of cyclones over Greenland for Beaufort Scale 0–6 cyclones, indicates the NCEP reanalyses generates fewer systems than the ECMWF reanalyses. The overall conclusion is that the ECMWF mean sea level pressure data produce a more comprehensive climatology of North Atlantic cyclones at all scales.


Cyclone Cyclone Frequency Intense Cyclone Gradient Wind Speed Cyclone Climatology 
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.



The authors would like to thank Isabel Trigo for her valuable assistance. Thanks go to the NOAA-CIRES Climate Diagnostics Center, Boulder, Colorado, USA, for providing the NCEP Reanalysis data via their Web site at and also the British Atmospheric Data Centre ( who supplied the ECMWF data. We would also like to thank the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK for providing support throughout the preparation of this work.


  1. Agee EM (1991) Trends in cyclone and anticyclone frequency and comparison with periods of warming and cooling over the Northern Hemisphere. J Clim 4: 263–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexandersson H, Tuomenvita H, Schmith T, Iden K (2000) Trends of storms in NW Europe derived from an updated pressure data set. Clim Res 14: 71–73Google Scholar
  3. Association of British Insurers (ABI) (1992) Institute of Actuaries ‘Storm Rating in the 90s’ Report. ABI, London, UK, pp 55Google Scholar
  4. Barstow SF, Lygre A (1985) Extreme Atlantic depression during winter 1982–83: effects seen in Norwegian waters. Weather 40: 2–10Google Scholar
  5. Ballenzweig EM (1959) A practical equal-area grid. J Geophys Res 64: 647–651Google Scholar
  6. Blender R, Schubert M (2000) Cyclone tracking in different spatial and temporal resolutions. Mon Weather Rev 128: 377–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blender R, Fraedrick K, Lunkeit F (1997) Identification of cyclone track regimes in the North Atlantic. Q J R Meteorol Soc 123: 727–741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burt SD (1983) New UK twentieth Century low pressure extreme. Weather 38: 209–213Google Scholar
  9. Burt SD, Mansfield DA (1988) The Great Storm of 15–16 October 1987. Weather 43: 90–114Google Scholar
  10. Colucci SJ (1976) Winter cyclone frequencies over the eastern United States and adjacent western Atlantic, 1964–1973. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 57: 548–553 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. ECMWF (2001) The description of the evolution of the ECMWF forecasting system for the period 1985–2001. Scholar
  12. Gibson JK, Kallberg P, Uppala S, Hernandez A, Nomura A, Serrano E (1999) 1. ERA-15 Description (Version 2 – January 1999), ERA ECMWF Re-Analysis Project Report Series, ECMWF, pp 84Google Scholar
  13. Gulev SK, Zolina O, Grigoriev S (2001) Extratropical cyclone variability in the Northern Hemisphere winter from the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis data. Clim Dyn 17: 795–809CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Haak U, Ulbrich U (1996) Verification of an objective cyclone climatology for the North Atlantic. Meteorol Z 5: 24–30Google Scholar
  15. Hayden BP (1981a) Secular variation in Atlantic Coast extratropical cyclones. Mon Weather Rev 109: 159–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hayden BP (1981b) Cyclone occurrence mapping: equal area or raw frequencies? Mon Weather Rev 109: 168–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hodges KI, Hoskins BJ, Boyle J, Thorncroft C (2003) A comparison of recent reanalysis datasets using objective feature tracking: storm tracks and tropical easterly waves. Mon Weather Rev 131: 2012–2037CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hoskins BJ, Hodges KI (2002) New perspectives on the Northern Hemisphere winter storm tracks. J Atmos Sci 59 (6): 1041–1061CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hosler CL, Gamage LA (1956) Cyclone frequencies in the United States for the period 1905–54. Mon Weather Rev 84: 388–390Google Scholar
  20. Jones PD (1987) The early twentieth century Arctic high – fact or fiction? Clim Dyn 1: 63–75Google Scholar
  21. Jones PD, Goodess CM, Davies TD (2000) ACCORD Report: Atmospheric circulation classification and regional downscaling - Final Report to the European Commission, pp 21–100, Scholar
  22. Kalnay E, Kanamitsu M, Kistler R, Collins W, Deaven D, Gandin L, Iredell M, Saha S, White G, Woollen J, Zhu Y, Chelliah M, Ebisuzaki W, Higgins W, Janowiak J, Mo KC, Ropelewski C, Wang J, Leetmaa A, Reynolds R, Jenne R, Joseph D (1996) The NCEP/NCAR 40-Year Reanalysis Project. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 77: 437–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McCallum E, Norris WJT (1990) The storms of January and February 1990. Meteorol Mag 119: 201–210Google Scholar
  24. McIlveen R (1995) Fundamentals of weather and climate. Chapman and Hall, London, pp 497Google Scholar
  25. Meteorological Office (1987) The storm of 15/16 October 1987. Meteorological Office, December 1987Google Scholar
  26. Nielsen JW, Dole RM (1992) A survey of extratropical cyclone characteristics during GALE. Mon Weather Rev 120: 1156–1167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pan H-L, Wu W-S (1994) Implementing a mass-flux convective parametrization package for the NMC Medium Range Forecast Model. Preprints, 10th Conf. on Numerical Weather Prediction, Portland, OR, Am Meteor Soc: 96–98Google Scholar
  28. Schinke H (1993) On the occurrence of deep cyclones over Europe and the North Atlantic for the period 1930–1991. Beitr Phys Atmosph 66: 223–237Google Scholar
  29. Sickmoller M, Blender R, Fraedrich K (2000) Observed winter cyclone tracks in the Northern Hemisphere in re-analysed ECMWF data. Q J R Meteorol Soc 126 (563): 591–620 Part BCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Simmonds I, Keay K (2000) Mean Southern Hemisphere extratropical cyclone behaviour in the 40 year NCEP-NCAR Reanalysis. J Clim 13: 873–885CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sinclair MR (1997) Objective identification of cyclones and their circulation, intensity and climatology. Weather Forecasting 12: 595–612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Taylor KE (1986) An Analysis of the biases in traditional cyclone frequency maps. Mon Weather Rev 114: 1481–1490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Tiedtke M (1989) A comprehensive mass flux scheme for cumulus parametrization in large-scale models. Mon Weather Rev 117: 1779–1800CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Trigo IF, Davies TD, Bigg GR (1999) Objective climatology of cyclones in the Mediterranean region. J Clim 12: 1685–1696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Trigo IF, Davies TD, Bigg GR (2000) Decline in Mediterranean rainfall caused by weakening of Mediterranean cyclones. Geophys Res Lett 27: 2913–2916CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. WASA Group (1998) Changing waves and storms in the north-east Atlantic? Bull Am Meteorol Soc 79: 741–760CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Woodroffe A (1990) Forecasting the storm of 8 November 1989 – a success for the man-machine mix. Meteorol Mag 119: 129–140Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag  2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. E. Hanson
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. P. Palutikof
    • 1
  • T. D. Davies
    • 2
  1. 1.Climatic Research UnitUniversity of East AngliaNorwich NR4 7TJUK
  2. 2.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwich NR4 7TJUK

Personalised recommendations