Climate Dynamics

, Volume 45, Issue 9–10, pp 2847–2860 | Cite as

Deconstructing the climate change response of the Northern Hemisphere wintertime storm tracks

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


There are large uncertainties in the circulation response of the atmosphere to climate change. One manifestation of this is the substantial spread in projections for the extratropical storm tracks made by different state-of-the-art climate models. In this study we perform a series of sensitivity experiments, with the atmosphere component of a single climate model, in order to identify the causes of the differences between storm track responses in different models. In particular, the Northern Hemisphere wintertime storm tracks in the CMIP3 multi-model ensemble are considered. A number of potential physical drivers of storm track change are identified and their influence on the storm tracks is assessed. The experimental design aims to perturb the different physical drivers independently, by magnitudes representative of the range of values present in the CMIP3 model runs, and this is achieved via perturbations to the sea surface temperature and the sea-ice concentration forcing fields. We ask the question: can the spread of projections for the extratropical storm tracks present in the CMIP3 models be accounted for in a simple way by any of the identified drivers? The results suggest that, whilst the changes in the upper-tropospheric equator-to-pole temperature difference have an influence on the storm track response to climate change, the large spread of projections for the extratropical storm track present in the northern North Atlantic in particular is more strongly associated with changes in the lower-tropospheric equator-to-pole temperature difference.


Storm tracks Climate change CMIP3 Drivers of change Polar amplification 



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 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 2015

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 Physics, Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary PhysicsUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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