The impact of Coriolis approximations on the environmental sensitivity of idealized extratropical cyclones

  • Gregory TierneyEmail author
  • Derek J. Posselt
  • James F. Booth


The precise influence of climate change on extratropical cyclone genesis and evolution is an important (but as yet unsolved) problem, given their physical and economic impact on a large portion of the planet’s population. However, extratropical cyclones are also affected by the competing influences of forcing mechanisms at a wide range of spatial scales, complicating the problem. While the advent of idealized numerical modeling has allowed great strides in addressing these complications and achieving some qualitative consensus in the literature, there is still some quantitative disagreement about response magnitude and where local maxima and minima in the response may be located. Thus, the advantages inherent in the variety of idealized numerical modeling methods used to address this problem are also a drawback, as it can be difficult to draw one-to-one comparisons across experiments. Although the effects of particular model architecture choices such as microphysical and cumulus schemes are well-documented, others are less understood. In this study, we examine the role of Coriolis approximations by comparing a new set of ETC sensitivity experiments using a linear β-plane approximation to an existing set of extratropical sensitivity experiments using a constant f-plane approximation. ETCs within the new β-plane experiment are found to generally decrease in strength with temperature, as measured by both minimum sea level pressure and maximum eddy kinetic energy (EKE). A small increase in EKE is observed at the warmest temperatures, likely due to diabatic influences disrupting flow within the warm conveyor belt. While seemingly contradictory to the previous f-plane results, the two experiments are instead found to be qualitatively similar upon further inspection, with an offset of approximately 8 K. This offset is primarily due to the Coriolis approximations, although the initial stability profile (affected by the Coriolis approximation) has a marginal influence.


Extratropical cyclones Climate change Latent heat release Dynamical meteorology Idealized modeling Midlatitude meteorology 



The authors thank the NASA Advanced Supercomputing Division for their help in using the Pleaides supercomputer as well as the University of Michigan’s Advanced Research Computing center for their help with the Flux high-performance computing cluster for their roles in our code refinement and completion of simulations. The authors would also like to acknowledge Shuguang Wang for his role in the development of this modeling framework. The research described in this manuscript was supported by NASA CloudSat/CALIPSO Science Team grant NNX13AQ33G, NASA PMM Science Team grant NNX16AD82G, and NSF grant AGS-1560844. A portion of this research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Finally, the authors appreciate the time, comments, and suggestions of two anonymous reviewers, whose feedback helped to improve the first draft of this manuscript.


  1. Ahmadi-Givi F, Graig GC, Plant RS (2004) The dynamics of a midlatitude cyclone with very strong latent-heat release. Q J R Meteorol Soc 130:295–323. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen MR, Ingram WJ (2002) Constraints on future changes in climate and the hydrologic cycle. Nature 419:224–232. Google Scholar
  3. Balasubramanian G, Garner ST (1997) The role of momentum fluxes in shaping the life cycle of a baroclinic wave. J Atmos Sci 54:510–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boettcher M, Wernli H (2013) A 10-year climatology of diabatic rossby waves in the northern hemisphere. Mon Wea Rev 141:1139–1154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boettcher M, Wernli H (2015) Diabatic Rossby waves in the southern hemisphere. Q J R Meteorol Soc 141(693):3106–3117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Booth JF, Wang S, Polvani LM (2013) Midlatitude storms in a moister world: lessons from idealized baroclinic life cycle experiments. Clim Dyn 41:787–802CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Booth JF, Reider H, Lee DE, Kushnir Y (2015) The paths of extratropical cyclones associated with wintertime high wind events in the Northeast United States. J Appl Meterol Clim 54:1871–1885CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boutle IA (2009) Boundary-layer processes in mid-latitude cyclones. Doctoral dissertation, The University of ReadingGoogle Scholar
  9. Boutle IA, Beare RJ, Belcher SE, Brown AR, Plant RS (2010) The moist boundary layer under a mid-latitude weather system. Boundary-Layer Meteorol 134:367–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boutle IA, Belcher SE, Plant RS (2011) Moisture transport in mid-latitude cyclones. Q J R Meteorol Soc 137:360–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Browning KA (2004) The sting at the end of the tail: damaging winds associated with extratropical cyclones. Q J R Meteorol Soc 130(597):375–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Catto JL, Jakob C, Berry G, Nicholls N (2012) Relating global precipitation to atmospheric fronts. Geophys Res Lett 39:L10805. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chagnon JM, Gray SL, Methven J (2013) Diabatic processes modifying potential vorticity in a North Atlantic cyclone. Q J R Meteorol Soc 139:1270–1282. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Charney JG, Eliassen A (1964) On the growth of the hurricane depression. J Atmos Sci 21:68–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Craig G, Cho HR (1988) Cumulus heating and CISK in the extratropical atmosphere. Part I: polar lows and comma clouds. J Atmos Sci 45(19):2622–2640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Davis CA, Emanuel KA (1991) Potential vorticity diagnostics of cyclogenesis. Mon Weather Rev 119:1929–1953.;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Davis CA, Stoelinga MT, Kuo Y-H (1993) The integrated effect of condensation in numerical simulations of extratropical cyclogenesis. Mon Weather Rev 121:2309–2330.;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dudhia J (1993) A nonhydrostatic version of the Penn State-NCAR mesoscale model: validation tests and simulation of an atlantic cyclone and cold front. Mon Weather Rev 121:1493–1513CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Emanuel KA, Fantini M, Thorpe AJ (1987) Baroclinic instability in an environment of small stability to slantwise moist convection. Part I: two-dimensional models. J Atmos Sci 44:1559–1573CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Frei C, Schär C, Lüthi D, Davies HC (1998) Heavy precipitation processes in a warmer climate. Geophys Res Lett 25:1431–1434. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grams CM et al (2011) The key role of diabatic processes in modifying the upper-tropospheric wave guide: a North Atlantic case-study. Q J R Meteorol Soc 137:2174–2193. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hawcroft MK, Shaffrey LC, Hodges KI, Dacre HF (2012) How much Northern Hemisphere precipitation is associated with extratropical cyclones? Geophys Res Lett 39:L24809. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hawcroft M, Dacre H, Forbes R, Hodges K, Shaffrey L, Stein T (2017) Using satellite and reanalysis data to evaluate the representation of latent heating in extratropical cyclones in a climate model. Clim Dyn 48:2255–2278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Held I, Soden B (2006) Robust responses of the hydrological cycle to global warming. J Clim 19:5686–5699CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hong S-Y, Noh Y, Dudhia J (2006) A new vertical diffusion package with an explicit treatment of entrainment processes. Mon Weather Rev 134:2318–2341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Igel AL, van den Heever SC (2014) The role of latent heating in warm frontogenesis. Q J R Meteorol Soc 140:139–150. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Joos H, Wernli H (2012) Influence of microphysical processes on the potential vorticity development in a warm conveyor belt: a case-study with the limited-area model COSMO. Q J R Meteorol Soc 138:407–418. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kain JS, Fritsch JM (1993) Convective parameterization for mesoscale models: the Kain-Fritsch Scheme. In: Emanuel KA, Raymond DJ (eds) The representation of cumulus convection in numerical models. Meteorological monographs, vol 24. American Meteorological Society, Boston, MA, pp 165–170Google Scholar
  29. Kirshbaum DJ, Merlis TM, Gyakum JR, McTaggart-Cowan R (2018) Sensitivity of idealized moist baroclinic waves to environmental temperature and moisture content. J Atmos Sci 75:337–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kuo Y-H, Shapiro MA, Donall EG (1991) The interaction between baroclinic and diabatic processes in a numerical simulation of a rapidly intensifying extratropical marine cyclone. Mon Weather Rev 119:368–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Leckebusch GC, Renggli D, Ulbrich U (2008) Development and application of an objective storm severity measure for the northeast Atlantic region. Meteor. Z 17:575–587. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Marciano CG, Lackmann GM, Robinson WA (2015) Changes in US east coast cyclone dynamics with climate change. J Clim 28:468–484. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Michaelis AC, Willison J, Lackmann GM, Robinson WA (2017) Changes in winter North Atlantic extratropical cyclones in high-resolution regional pseudo–global warming simulations. J Clim 30:6905–6925CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Moore RW, Montgomery MT (2004) Reexamining the dynamics of short-scale, diabatic Rossby waves and their role in midlatitude moist cyclogenesis. J Atmos Sci 61:754–768CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Moore RW, Montgomery MT (2005) Analysis of an idealized, three-dimensional diabatic Rossby vortex: a coherent structure of the moist baroclinic atmosphere. J Atmos Sci 62:2703–2725CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Moore RW, Montgomery MT, Davies H (2013) Genesis criteria for diabatic Rossby vortices: a model study. Mon Weather Rev 141(1):252–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Morrison H, Curry J, Khvorostyanov V (2005) A new double-moment microphysics parameterization for application in cloud and climate models. Part I: description. J Atmos Sci 62:1665–1677. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. O’Gorman PA, Merlis TM, Singh MS (2018) Increase in the skewness of extratropical vertical velocities with climate warming: fully nonlinear simulations versus moist baroclinic instability. Q J R Meteorol Soc 144:208–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Overland JE, Wang M (2010) Large-scale atmospheric circulation changes are associated with the recent loss of Arctic sea ice. Tellus 62A:1–9Google Scholar
  40. Parker DJ, Thorpe AJ (1995) Conditional convective heating in a baroclinic atmosphere: a model of convective frontogenesis. J Atmos Sci 52:1699–1711.;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pfahl S, O’Gorman PA, Singh MS (2015) Extratropical cyclones in idealized simulations of changed climates. J Clim 28:9373–9392. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Polvani LM, Esler JG (2007) Transport and mixing of chemical air masses in idealized baroclinic life cycles. J Geophys Res 112:D23102. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Posselt DJ, Martin JE (2004) The effect of latent heat release on the evolution of a warm occluded thermal structure. Mon Weather Rev 132:578–599.;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ranson M, Kousky C, Ruth M, Jantarasami L, Crimmins A, Tarquinio L (2014) Tropical and extratropical cyclone damages under climate change. Clim Change 127:227–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rantanen M, Räisänen J, Sinclair VA, Järvinen H (2019) Sensitivity of idealised baroclinic waves to mean atmospheric temperature and meridional temperature gradient changes. Clim Dyn 52(5–6):2703–2719CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Raymond DJ, Jiang H (1990) A theory for long-lived mesoscale convective systems. J Atmos Sci 47:3067–3077CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Reed RJ, Simmons AJ, Albright MD, Unden P (1988) The role of latent heat release in explosive cyclogenesis: three examples based on ECMWF operational forecasts. Wea Forecast 3:217–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Reeves HD, Lackmann GM (2004) An Investigation of the influence of latent heat release on cold-frontal motion. Mon Weather Rev 132:2864–2881CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rossby C-G (1939) Relation between variations in the intensity of the zonal circulation of the atmosphere and the displacements of the semi-permanent centers of action. J Marine Res 2:38–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Schäfer SA, Voigt A (2018) Radiation weakens idealized midlatitude cyclones. Geophys Res Lett 45:2833–2841CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Schemm S, Wernli H, Papritz L (2013) Warm conveyor belts in idealized Moist baroclinic wave simulations. J Atmos Sci 70:627–652. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Screen JA, Simmonds I (2010) The central role of diminishing sea ice in recent Arctic temperature amplification. Nature 464:1334–1337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Screen JA, Simmonds I (2013) Exploring links between Arctic amplification and mid-latitude weather. Geophys Res Lett 40:959–964. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Serreze MC, Barry RG (2011) Processes and impacts of Arctic amplification: a research synthesis. Glob Planet Chang 77:85–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Simmons AJ, Hoskins BJ (1977) Baroclinic instability on the sphere: solutions with a more realistic tropopause. J Atmos Sci 34:581–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Skamarock WC, Klemp JB, Dudhia J, Gill DO, Barker DM, Duda M, Huang X-Y, Wang W, Powers JG (2008) A description of the advanced research WRF Version 3, NCAR Technical Note
  57. Snyder C, Lindzen RS (1991) Quasi-geostrophic wave-CISK in an unbounded baroclinic shear. J Atmos Sci 48:78–88Google Scholar
  58. Stoelinga MT (1996) A potential vorticity-based study of the role of diabatic heating and friction in a numerically simulated baroclinic cyclone. Mon Weather Rev 124:849–874.;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Thorncroft CD, Hoskins BJ, McIntyre ME (1993) Two paradigms of baroclinic-wave life-cycle behaviour. Q J R Meteorol. Soc. 119:17–55. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tierney G, 2017: An Examination of Extratropical Cyclone Sensitivity to Enviromental Variability. Doctoral dissertation, University of MichiganGoogle Scholar
  61. Tierney G, Posselt DJ, Booth JF (2018) An examination of extratropical cyclone response to changes in baroclinicity and temperature in an idealized environment. Clim Dyn 51:3829–3846. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Ullrich PA, Reed KA, Jablonowski C (2015) Analytical initial conditions and an analysis of baroclinic instability waves in f—and β-plane 3D channel models. Q J R Meteorol Soc 141:2972–2988. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wang S, Polvani LM (2011) Double tropopause formation in idealized baroclinic life cycles: the key role of an initial tropopause inversion layer. J Geophys Res 116:D05108. Google Scholar
  64. Watterson IG (2006) The intensity of precipitation during extra-tropical cyclones in global warming simulations: a link to cyclone intensity? Tellus 58A:82–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wernli H, Dirren S, Liniger MA, Zillig M (2002) Dynamical aspects of the life cycle of the winter storm ‘Lothar’ (24–26 December 1999). Q J R Meteorol Soc 128:405–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Whitaker JS, Snyder C (1993) The effects of spherical geometry on the evolution of baroclinic waves. J Atmos Sci 50:597–612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Willison J, Robinson WA, Lackmann GM (2013) The importance of resolving mesoscale latent heating in the North Atlantic storm track. J Atmos Sci 70:2234–2250. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric SciencesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA
  3. 3.City College of New YorkNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations