European storminess and associated circulation weather types: future changes deduced from a multi-model ensemble of GCM simulations

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Donat, M. G. ; Leckebusch, G. C. ; Pinto, J. G. ; Ulbrich, U. (2010)

A range of possible changes in the frequency and characteristics of European wind storms under future climate conditions was investigated on the basis of a multi-model ensemble of 9 coupled global climate model (GCM) simulations for the 20th and 21st centuries following the IPCC SRES A1B scenario. A multi-model approach allowed an estimation of the (un)certainties of the climate change signals. General changes in large-scale atmospheric flow were analysed, the occurrence of wind storms was quantified, and atmospheric features associated with wind storm events were considered. Identified storm days were investigated according to atmospheric circulation, associated pressure patterns, cyclone tracks and wind speed patterns. Validation against reanalysis data revealed that the GCMs are in general capable of realistically reproducing characteristics of European circulation weather types (CWTs) and wind storms. Results are given with respect to frequency of occurrence, storm-associated flow conditions, cyclone tracks and specific wind speed patterns. Under anthropogenic climate change conditions (SRES A1B scenario), increased frequency of westerly flow during winter is detected over the central European investigation area. In the ensemble mean, the number of detected wind storm days increases between 19 and 33% for 2 different measures of storminess, only 1 GCM revealed less storm days. The increased number of storm days detected in most models is disproportionately high compared to the related CWT changes. The mean intensity of cyclones associated with storm days in the ensemble mean increases by about 10 (±10)% in the Eastern Atlantic, near the British Isles and in the North Sea. Accordingly, wind speeds associated with storm events increase significantly by about 5 (±5)% over large parts of central Europe, mainly on days with westerly flow. The basic conclusions of this work remain valid if different ensemble contructions are considered, leaving out an outlier model or including multiple runs of one particular model.
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