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

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Raible Christoph C., Messmer Martina, Lehner Flavio, Stocker Thomas F., Blender Richard,
Project Climate and Environmental Physics: Pleistocene Earth System Evolution (pleistoCEP)
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Climate of the Past
Volume (Issue) 14(10)
Page(s) 1499 - 1514
Title of proceedings Climate of the Past
DOI 10.5194/cp-14-1499-2018

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


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. The analysis is based on a seamless transient simulation with a state-of-the-art fully coupled Earth system model from 850 to 2100 CE. The Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) scenario is used in the 21st century. During the Common Era, cyclone characteristics show pronounced variations on interannual and decadal timescales, 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 timescales, might explain the conundrum that proxy records suggest enhanced occurrence of precipitation extremes during rather cold periods in the past.