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Impact of extratropical cyclone intensity and speed on the extreme wave trends in the Atlantic Ocean

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This work analyses the extratropical cyclone-related extreme waves in the ocean surface and their trends in the North and South Atlantic Oceans. Atmospheric and ocean wave products are obtained from ERA5, from 1979 to 2020 with 1-hourly outputs, covering 42 years with the present climate changes evaluated by the difference between the two 21-years-time slices. The cyclones are tracked through the relative vorticity at 850 hPa and then associated with extreme wave events using an automated scheme that searches for an extreme wave region 1500 km from the centre of the cyclone, following criteria that exclude possible swell dominated events. The hot spot regions of cyclone-related waves occurrence found by the method agree with previous studies and relate to the cyclogenesis region, and storm track orientation. Most cyclones associated with extreme wave events are generated in the western boundary of the domains. The east-poleward side of the ocean basins presents the highest density of occurrences related to the higher density of cyclone track and the dominance of more mature stage cyclones while in the west side prevail systems on developing stages, with notable propagating fronts and consequently, lower wind persistence. The storm track variations alone cannot explain the observed changes in the wave occurrence during the period due to the lack of statistical confidence. However, the wave occurrence responds to changes in the cyclone intensity, modulated by cyclone displacement speed. Regions with an increase of extreme waves are related to the effect of more intense cyclones or cyclones with slower propagation, being the last associated with a longer interaction of winds with the ocean surface.

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Availability of data and material

The ERA5 products were obtained with Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) (2017) (, last access: June 2021). The Cyclone tracks used in this study are available at “Atlantic extratropical cyclone tracks databases” (; Gramcianinov et al. 2020b). The cyclone track associated with extreme wave events obtained in this study can be shared upon request by email.

Code availability

The codes used in Sect. 3.3 can be shared upon request by email.


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The authors acknowledge the anonymous reviewer, who helped us to improve this article. This work is part of the project “Extreme wind and wave modelling and statistics in the Atlantic Ocean” (EXWAV) funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) Grant #2018/08057-5 and by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia—FCT) under contract PTDC/EAM-OCE/31325/2017 RD0504. This work contributes to the Strategic Research Plan of the Centre for Marine Technology and Ocean Engineering (CENTEC), which is financed by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia—FCT) under contract UIDB/UIDP/00134/2020. C.B.G. was funded by a FAPESP postdoc scholarship Grant #2020/01416-0. R.M.C. is funded by the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS), a Cooperative Institute of the University of Miami and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, cooperative Agreement NA20OAR4320472. The authors would like to acknowledge the ECMWF for providing the atmospheric and wave data for the study. The ERA5 products were generated using Copernicus Climate Change Service Information [2019]. This study used the high-performance computing resources of the SDumont supercomputer (, which is provided by the National Laboratory for Scientific Computing (LNCC/MCTI, Brazil).


Grant #2018/08057-5, São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP); Grant #2020/01416-0, São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP); contract PTDC/EAM-OCE/31325/2017, Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia—FCT; contract UIDB/UIDP/00134/2020, Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia—FCT.

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CBG conceptualization, formal analysis, methodology, visualization, writing—original draft. RC and RMC conceptualization, methodology, writing—review and editing. PLSD and CGS writing—review and editing, supervision.

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Correspondence to Carolina B. Gramcianinov.

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Gramcianinov, C.B., de Camargo, R., Campos, R.M. et al. Impact of extratropical cyclone intensity and speed on the extreme wave trends in the Atlantic Ocean. Clim Dyn 60, 1447–1466 (2023).

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