Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/wcd-2021-44
https://doi.org/10.5194/wcd-2021-44

  12 Jul 2021

12 Jul 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal WCD.

Characteristics of extratropical cyclones and precursors to windstorms in Northern Europe

Terhi K. Laurila1, Hilppa Gregow1, Joona Cornér2, and Victoria A. Sinclair2 Terhi K. Laurila et al.
  • 1Weather and Climate Change Impact Research, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  • 2Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research / Physics, Faculty of Science, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

Abstract. Extratropical cyclones play a major role in the atmospheric circulation, weather variability and can cause damage to society. Extratropical cyclones in Northern Europe, which is located at the end of the North Atlantic storm track, have been less studied than extratropical cyclones elsewhere. Our study investigates extratropical cyclones and windstorms in Northern Europe (which in this study covers Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and parts of the Baltic, Norwegian and Barents Seas) by analysing their characteristics, spatial and temporal evolution and precursors. We examine cold and warm seasons separately to determine seasonal differences. We track all extratropical cyclones in Northern Europe, create cyclone composites and use an ensemble sensitivity method to analyse the precursors. The ensemble sensitivity analysis is a novel method in cyclone studies where linear regression is used to statistically identify what variables possibly influence the subsequent evolution of extratropical cyclones. We investigate windstorm precursors for both the minimum mean sea level pressure (MSLP) and for the maximum 10-m wind gusts. The annual number of extratropical cyclones and windstorms have a large inter-annual variability and no significant linear trends during 1980–2019. Windstorms originate and occur over the Barents and Norwegian Seas whereas weaker extratropical cyclones originate and occur over land areas in Northern Europe. During the windstorm evolution, the maximum wind gusts move from the warm sector to behind the cold front following the strongest pressure gradient. Windstorms in both seasons are located on the poleward side of the jet stream. The maximum wind gusts occur nearly at the same time than the minimum MSLP occurs. The cold season windstorms have higher sensitivities and thus are potentially better predictable than warm season windstorms, and the minimum MSLP has higher sensitivities than the maximum wind gusts. Of the four examined precursors, both the minimum MSLP and the maximum wind gusts are the most sensitive to the 850-hPa potential temperature anomaly i.e. the temperature gradient. Hence, this parameter is likely important when predicting windstorms in Northern Europe.

Terhi K. Laurila et al.

Status: open (until 29 Aug 2021)

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Terhi K. Laurila et al.

Terhi K. Laurila et al.

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Short summary
We create a climatology of mid-latitude cyclones and windstorms in Northern Europe and investigate how sensitive the minimum pressure and maximum gust of windstorms are to four precursors. Windstorms are more common in the cold season than the warm season whereas the number of mid-latitude cyclones has no annual cycle. The low-level temperature gradient has the strongest impact of all considered precursors on the intensity of windstorms in terms of both the minimum pressure and maximum gust.