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Geophysical Monograph Series



  • polar low
  • climate change
  • North Atlantic
  • ocean storms
  • frequency change
  • storm tracking

Index Terms

  • 1610 Global Change: Atmosphere
  • 1620 Global Change: Climate dynamics
  • 1630 Global Change: Impacts of global change
  • 1637 Global Change: Regional climate change



Investigation of Past and Future Polar Low Frequency in the North Atlantic

Matthias Zahn

Environmental Systems Science Centre, University of Reading, Reading, UK

Hans von Storch

Polar lows are a particular kind of extreme weather event. Polar lows are subsynoptic-scale vigorous cyclones in subpolar maritime region. They are associated with strong winds and severe weather and when developing rapidly can constitute a major threat to human offshore activities. Here we present methods and results of our previous research to investigate long-term frequency changes of polar low occurrences over the North Atlantic in the past and in a projected, anthropogenically warmed future atmosphere. For the past, we downscaled reanalysis data to reproduce, detect, and count polar lows, and for the future, we downscaled global model data from various Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenarios. We found no systematic change of polar low frequency in the past 60 years but a significant decrease of down to half as many cases for the simulated future. We relate this decrease to an increase of vertical atmospheric stability, which is the result of more quickly rising air temperatures compared to the sea surface. The results have recently been published in a series of articles.

Citation: Zahn, M., and H. von Storch (2012), Investigation of past and future polar low frequency in the North Atlantic, in Extreme Events and Natural Hazards: The Complexity Perspective, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 196, edited by A. S. Sharma et al. 99–110, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/2011GM001091.


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