Mediterranean cyclones and windstorms in a changing climate

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Nissen, Katrin M. ; Leckebusch, Gregor C. ; Pinto, Joaquim G ; Ulbrich, Uwe (2014)

Changes in the frequency and intensity of cyclones and associated windstorms affecting the Medi-terranean region simulated under enhanced Greenhouse Gas forcing conditions are investigated. The analysis is based on 7 climate model integrations performed with two coupled global models (ECHAM5 MPIOM and INGV CMCC), comparing the end of the twentieth century and at least the first half of the twenty-first century. As one of the models has a considerably enhanced resolution of the atmosphere and the ocean, it is also investigated whether the climate change signals are influenced by the model resolution. While the higher resolved simulation is closer to reanalysis climatology, both in terms of cyclones and windstorm distributions, there is no evidence for an influence of the resolution on the sign of the climate change signal. All model simulations show a reduction in the total number of cyclones crossing the Mediterranean region under climate change conditions. Exceptions are Morocco and the Levant region, where the models predict an increase in the number of cyclones. The reduction is especially strong for intense cyclones in terms of their Laplacian of pressure. The influence of the simulated positive shift in the NAO Index on the cyclone decrease is restricted to the Western Mediterranean region, where it explains 10–50 % of the simulated trend, depending on the individual simulation. With respect to windstorms, decreases are simulated over most of the Mediterranean basin. This overall reduction is due to a decrease in the number of events associated with local cyclones, while the number of events associated with cyclones outside of the Mediterranean region slightly increases. These systems are, however, less intense in terms of their integrated severity over the Mediterranean area, as they mostly affect the fringes of the region. In spite of the general reduction in total numbers, several cyclones and windstorms of intensity unknown under current climate conditions are identified for the scenario simulations. For these events, no common trend exists in the individual simulations. Thus, they may rather be attributed to long-term (e.g. decadal) variability than to the Greenhouse Gas forcing. Nevertheless, the result indicates that high-impact weather systems will remain an important risk in the Mediterranean Basin.
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