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Discussion papers | Copyright
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 06 Jun 2018

Research article | 06 Jun 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).

Extratropical cyclone statistics during the last millennium and the 21st century

Christoph C. Raible1,2, Martina Messmer1,2, Flavio Lehner3, Thomas F. Stocker1,2, and Richard Blender4 Christoph C. Raible et al.
  • 1Climate and Environmental Physics, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 2Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, Bern, Switzerland
  • 3National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder (CO), USA
  • 4Meteorological Institute, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

Abstract. Extratropical cyclones in winter and their characteristics are investigated in depth for the Atlantic European region, as they are responsible for a significant part of the rainfall and extreme wind and/or precipitation-induced hazards. Here, we use a seamless transient simulation with a state-of-the-art fully-coupled Earth System Model from 850 to 2100CE as basis for the analysis. The RCP8.5 scenario is applied in the 21st century. During the Common Era, cyclone characteristics show pronounced variations on interannual and decadal time scales, but no external forcing imprint is found prior to 1850. Thus, variations of extratropical cyclone characteristics are mainly caused by internal variability of the coupled climate system. When anthropogenic forcing becomes dominant in the 20th century, a decrease of the cyclone occurrences mainly over the Mediterranean and a strong increase of extreme cyclone-related precipitation become detectable. The latter is due to thermodynamics as it follows the Clausius-Clapeyron relation. An important finding, though, is that the relation between temperature and extreme cyclone-related precipitation is not always controlled by the Clausius-Clapeyron relation, which suggests that dynamical processes can play an important role in generating extreme cyclone-related precipitation – for example in the absence of anomalously warm background conditions. Thus, the importance of dynamical processes, even on decadal time scales, might explain the conundrum that proxy records suggest enhanced occurrence of precipitation extremes during rather cold periods in the past.

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