Climate Dynamics

, Volume 40, Issue 11–12, pp 2775–2800 | Cite as

Trends and low frequency variability of extra-tropical cyclone activity in the ensemble of twentieth century reanalysis

  • Xiaolan L. WangEmail author
  • Y. Feng
  • G. P. Compo
  • V. R. Swail
  • F. W. Zwiers
  • R. J. Allan
  • P. D. Sardeshmukh


An objective cyclone tracking algorithm is applied to twentieth century reanalysis (20CR) 6-hourly mean sea level pressure fields for the period 1871–2010 to infer historical trends and variability in extra-tropical cyclone activity. The tracking algorithm is applied both to the ensemble-mean analyses and to each of the 56 ensemble members individually. The ensemble-mean analyses are found to be unsuitable for accurately determining cyclone statistics. However, pooled cyclone statistics obtained by averaging statistics from individual members generally agree well with statistics from the NCEP-NCAR reanalyses for 1951–2010, although 20CR shows somewhat weaker cyclone activity over land and stronger activity over oceans. Both reanalyses show similar cyclone trend patterns in the northern hemisphere (NH) over 1951–2010. Homogenized pooled cyclone statistics are analyzed for trends and variability. Conclusions account for identified inhomogeneities, which occurred before 1949 in the NH and between 1951 and 1985 in the southern hemisphere (SH). Cyclone activity is estimated to have increased slightly over the period 1871–2010 in the NH. More substantial increases are seen in the SH. Notable regional and seasonal variations in trends are evident, as is profound decadal or longer scale variability. For example, the NH increases occur mainly in the mid-latitude Pacific and high-latitude Atlantic regions. For the North Atlantic-European region and southeast Australia, the 20CR cyclone trends are in agreement with trends in geostrophic wind extremes derived from in-situ surface pressure observations. European trends are also consistent with trends in the mean duration of wet spells derived from rain gauge data in Europe.


Reanalysis data Extra-tropical cyclones Cyclone tracking Data homogeneity tests Data homogenization Trends and low frequency variability 



The authors wish to thank Mr. Rodney Chan for his help in manipulating the large dataset and running the cyclone tracking algorithm. The authors are grateful to Dr. Mark Serreze (University of Colorado) for providing us his cyclone tracking codes, and to Dr. John Fyfe for his helpful internal review of an earlier version of this manuscript. The authors wish to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive review comments. The Twentieth Century Reanalysis Project used resources of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center and of the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which are supported by the Office of Science of the US Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231 and Contract No. DE-AC05-00OR22725, respectively. Support for the Twentieth Century Reanalysis Project dataset is provided by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (DOE INCITE) program, and Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER), and by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Program Office.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in the Right of Canada as represented by the Minister of the Environment 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaolan L. Wang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Y. Feng
    • 1
  • G. P. Compo
    • 2
    • 3
  • V. R. Swail
    • 1
  • F. W. Zwiers
    • 4
  • R. J. Allan
    • 5
  • P. D. Sardeshmukh
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Climate Research DivisionScience and Technology Branch, Environment CanadaTorontoCanada
  2. 2.CIRES, Climate Diagnostics CenterUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Physical Sciences DivisionNOAA Earth System Research LaboratoryBoulderUSA
  4. 4.Pacific Climate Impacts ConsortiumUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  5. 5.Hadley Centre, Met OfficeExeterUK

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