Climate Dynamics

, Volume 43, Issue 5–6, pp 1171–1182 | Cite as

Equator-to-pole temperature differences and the extra-tropical storm track responses of the CMIP5 climate models

  • B. J. Harvey
  • L. C. Shaffrey
  • T. J. Woollings


This paper aims to understand the physical processes causing the large spread in the storm track projections of the CMIP5 climate models. In particular, the relationship between the climate change responses of the storm tracks, as measured by the 2–6 day mean sea level pressure variance, and the equator-to-pole temperature differences at upper- and lower-tropospheric levels is investigated. In the southern hemisphere the responses of the upper- and lower-tropospheric temperature differences are correlated across the models and as a result they share similar associations with the storm track responses. There are large regions in which the storm track responses are correlated with the temperature difference responses, and a simple linear regression model based on the temperature differences at either level captures the spatial pattern of the mean storm track response as well explaining between 30 and 60 % of the inter-model variance of the storm track responses. In the northern hemisphere the responses of the two temperature differences are not significantly correlated and their associations with the storm track responses are more complicated. In summer, the responses of the lower-tropospheric temperature differences dominate the inter-model spread of the storm track responses. In winter, the responses of the upper- and lower-temperature differences both play a role. The results suggest that there is potential to reduce the spread in storm track responses by constraining the relative magnitudes of the warming in the tropical and polar regions.


Storm tracks Climate change CMIP5 Baroclinicity 



BJH was supported by the Natural Environment Research Councils project Testing and Evaluating Model Predictions of European Storms (TEMPEST) during the course of this work. The authors wish to thank Giuseppe Zappa for help in obtaining the CMIP5 data, and the two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments on the manuscript. In addition, we acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modeling groups for producing and making available their model output. For CMIP the U.S. Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. J. Harvey
    • 1
  • L. C. Shaffrey
    • 1
  • T. J. Woollings
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Meteorology, National Centre for Atmospheric ScienceUniversity of ReadingReadingUK
  2. 2.Department of MeteorologyUniversity of ReadingReadingUK

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