John Hanley
Department of Meteorology, Stockholm University, Sweden

Extreme Storms in the North Atlantic and Europe

Time and place
Tue 5 Feb 2013, 10.00
Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens Hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12

(This event has taken place)



A study of the most extreme cyclones affecting the North Atlantic and Europe is presented with particular focus on extreme windstorms over the densely populated area of Western Europe, whose associated high surface wind speeds are capable of causing extensive structural damage and occasionally a loss of life.

A novel cyclone identification and tracking algorithm is presented which explicitly recognises ‘multi-centre cyclones’ (MCCs), defined as cyclonic systems which contain two or three sea-level pressure minima. The method also recognises cyclone merging and splitting events and reduces the number of tracks which would have been spuriously split at some point in their life-cycle. MCC frequency is shown to increase with storm intensity, with approximately 60% of the top 30% of cyclones constituting MCCs at some point in their life-cycle.

The first findings of the IMILAST (Inter-comparison of MId-LAtitudeSTorm diagnostics) project, an intercomparison study of 15 cyclone identification and tracking algorithms, are presented. Each method was applied to a 20 year period of the ERA-Interim dataset and results for cyclone frequency, intensity, life-cycle and track location were compared across the methods.

The relationship between the evolution of the most intense wind storms affecting Western Europe (Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia, and Western Continental Europe) and the large-scale atmospheric flow is investigated using an automated cyclone tracking algorithm and an objective measure of cyclone destructiveness applied to ERA40 and ERA-Interim reanalysis data as well as EC-Earth model output data at two different spatial resolutions. Composite analyses reveal a clear connection between the precise location of upper-level anti-cyclonic wave breaking and cold air intrusion from the north and the position and orientation of an intense jet; this, in turn, plays a crucial role in determining into which region a developing extreme storm will be steered.