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Past changes in the North Atlantic storm track driven by insolation and sea-ice forcing

Lisa C. Orme, Daniel J. Charman, Liam Reinhardt, Richard T. Jones, Fraser J. G. Mitchell, Bettina S. Stefanini, Andrew Barkwith, Michael A. Ellis and Mark Grosvenor
Past changes in the North Atlantic storm track driven by insolation and sea-ice forcing
Geology (Boulder) (April 2017) 45 (4): 335-338


Changes in the location of Northern Hemisphere storm tracks may cause significant societal and economic impacts under future climate change, but projections of future changes are highly uncertain and drivers of long-term changes are poorly understood. Here we develop a late Holocene storminess reconstruction from northwest Spain and combine this with an equivalent record from the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, to measure changes in the dominant latitudinal position of the storm track. The north-south index shows that storm tracks moved from a southern position to higher latitudes over the past 4000 yr, likely driven by a change from meridional to zonal atmospheric circulation, associated with a negative to positive North Atlantic Oscillation shift. We suggest that gradual polar cooling (caused by decreasing solar insolation in summer and amplified by sea-ice feedbacks) and mid-latitude warming (caused by increasing winter insolation) drove a steepening of the winter latitudinal temperature gradient through the late Holocene, resulting in the observed change to a more northern winter storm track. Our findings provide paleoclimate support for observational and modeling studies that link changes in the latitudinal temperature gradient and sea-ice extent to the strength and shape of the circumpolar vortex. Together this evidence now suggests that North Atlantic winter storm tracks may shift southward under future warming as sea-ice extent decreases and the mid- to high-latitude temperature gradient decreases, with storms increasingly affecting southern Europe.

ISSN: 0091-7613
EISSN: 1943-2682
Serial Title: Geology (Boulder)
Serial Volume: 45
Serial Issue: 4
Title: Past changes in the North Atlantic storm track driven by insolation and sea-ice forcing
Affiliation: University of Exeter, Department of Geography, Exeter, United Kingdom
Pages: 335-338
Published: 201704
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 29
Accession Number: 2017-025956
Categories: Quaternary geology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Annotation: GSA Data Repository item 2017097
Illustration Description: illus. incl. sketch map
N00°00'00" - N75°00'00", W80°00'00" - E20°00'00"
N56°45'00" - N58°30'00", W08°00'00" - W06°10'00"
N36°00'00" - N43°45'00", W09°30'00" - E04°30'00"
Secondary Affiliation: Trinity College Dublin, IRL, IrelandMaynooth University, IRL, IrelandBritish Geological Survey, GBR, United Kingdom
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 201716
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