Climate Dynamics

, Volume 45, Issue 3–4, pp 949–964 | Cite as

Severe Autumn storms in future Western Europe with a warmer Atlantic Ocean

  • Michiel BaatsenEmail author
  • Reindert J. Haarsma
  • Aarnout J. Van Delden
  • Hylke de Vries


Simulations with a very high resolution (~25 km) global climate model indicate that more severe Autumn storms will impact Europe in a warmer future climate. The observed increase is mainly attributed to storms with a tropical origin, especially in the later part of the twentyfirst century. As their genesis region expands, tropical cyclones become more intense and their chances of reaching Europe increase. This paper investigates the properties and evolution of such storms and clarifies the future changes. The studied tropical cyclones feature a typical evolution of tropical development, extratropical transition and a re-intensification. A reduction of the transit area between regions of tropical and extratropical cyclogenesis increases the probability of re-intensification. Many of the modelled storms exhibit hybrid properties in a considerable part of their life cycle during which they exhibit the hazards of both tropical and extratropical systems. In addition to tropical cyclones, other systems such as cold core extratropical storms mainly originating over the Gulf Stream region also increasingly impact Western Europe. Despite their different history, all of the studied storms have one striking similarity: they form a warm seclusion. The structure, intensity and frequency of storms in the present climate are compared to observations using the MERRA and IBTrACS datasets. Damaging winds associated with the occurrence of a sting jet are observed in a large fraction of the cyclones during their final stage. Baroclinic instability is of great importance for the (re-)intensification of the storms. Furthermore, so-called atmospheric rivers providing tropical air prove to be vital for the intensification through diabatic heating and will increase considerably in strength in the future, as will the associated flooding risks.


Climate change Tropical cyclones Extratropical transition Re-intensification Warm seclusion 

List of symbols


EPT difference between the core and the minimum in the south–east quadrant of a storm


Maximum EPT difference in a cyclone at 850 hPa


Equivalent potential temperature


Extratropical cyclone


Extratropical transition


Integrated vapour transport


Mean sea level pressure


Minimum MSLP of a cyclone


Potential temperature


Post-tropical cyclone


Potential vorticity


Potential vorticity units (10−6 Km2/kgs)


Total amount of core moisture in a cyclone


Relative vorticity


Sea surface temperature


Tropical cyclone


Maximum 10 m wind speed found within 20 grid boxes of a storm’s centre


Storm relative thickness asymmetry of 850–300 hPa layer



Thanks go to Camiel Severijns for performing the model runs with EC-Earth and post-processing the data and to Jonathan Eden for critically revising this paper. The authors would also like to thank the Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center for providing the MERRA reanalysis data.

Supplementary material

382_2014_2329_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.4 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 2467 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michiel Baatsen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Reindert J. Haarsma
    • 1
  • Aarnout J. Van Delden
    • 2
  • Hylke de Vries
    • 1
  1. 1.Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI)De BiltThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Institute for Marine and Atmospheric ResearchUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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