Articles | Volume 9, issue 7
Development and technical paper
07 Jul 2016
Development and technical paper |  | 07 Jul 2016

Northern Hemisphere storminess in the Norwegian Earth System Model (NorESM1-M)

Erlend M. Knudsen and John E. Walsh

Abstract. Metrics of storm activity in Northern Hemisphere high and midlatitudes are evaluated from historical output and future projections by the Norwegian Earth System Model (NorESM1-M) coupled global climate model. The European Re-Analysis Interim (ERA-Interim) and the Community Climate System Model (CCSM4), a global climate model of the same vintage as NorESM1-M, provide benchmarks for comparison. The focus is on the autumn and early winter (September through December) – the period when the ongoing and projected Arctic sea ice retreat is the greatest. Storm tracks derived from a vorticity-based algorithm for storm identification are reproduced well by NorESM1-M, although the tracks are somewhat better resolved in the higher-resolution ERA-Interim and CCSM4. The tracks show indications of shifting polewards in the future as climate changes under the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) forcing scenarios. Cyclones are projected to become generally more intense in the high latitudes, especially over the Alaskan region, although in some other areas the intensity is projected to decrease. While projected changes in track density are less coherent, there is a general tendency towards less frequent storms in midlatitudes and more frequent storms in high latitudes, especially the Baffin Bay/Davis Strait region in September. Autumn precipitation is projected to increase significantly across the entire high latitudes. Together with the projected loss of sea ice and increases in storm intensity and sea level, this increase in precipitation implies a greater vulnerability to coastal flooding and erosion, especially in the Alaskan region. The projected changes in storm intensity and precipitation (as well as sea ice and sea level pressure) scale generally linearly with the RCP value of the forcing and with time through the 21st century.

Short summary
In this paper, two global climate models (NorESM1-M and CCSM4) are compared to an observational-based data set (ERA-Interim) for their ability to simulate historical Arctic storminess in autumn. With this in hand, the models are run through the 21st century. We find an overall significant increase in precipitation expected, with generally fewer and weaker storms in midlatitudes and partly more and stronger storms in high-latitudes. The tendencies are strongest in areas of Arctic sea ice retreat.