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

Abstract

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.

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Abbreviations

DT:

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

DT850,max :

Maximum EPT difference in a cyclone at 850 hPa

EPT:

Equivalent potential temperature

ETC:

Extratropical cyclone

ETT:

Extratropical transition

IVT:

Integrated vapour transport

MSLP:

Mean sea level pressure

Pmin :

Minimum MSLP of a cyclone

PT:

Potential temperature

PTC:

Post-tropical cyclone

PV:

Potential vorticity

PVU:

Potential vorticity units (10−6 Km2/kgs)

Qc :

Total amount of core moisture in a cyclone

RV:

Relative vorticity

SST:

Sea surface temperature

TC:

Tropical cyclone

V10,max :

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

Zd :

Storm relative thickness asymmetry of 850–300 hPa layer

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Michiel Baatsen.

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Baatsen, M., Haarsma, R.J., Van Delden, A.J. et al. Severe Autumn storms in future Western Europe with a warmer Atlantic Ocean. Clim Dyn 45, 949–964 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-014-2329-8

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Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Tropical cyclones
  • Extratropical transition
  • Re-intensification
  • Warm seclusion