The future intensification of the North Atlantic winter storm track: the key role of dynamic ocean coupling


Climate models project an intensification of the wintertime North Atlantic Ocean storm track, over its downstream region, by the end of this century. Previous studies have suggested that ocean–atmosphere coupling plays a key role in this intensification, but the precise role of the different components of the coupling has not been explored and quantified. In this paper, using a hierarchy of ocean coupling experiments, we isolate and quantify the respective roles of thermodynamic (changes in surface heat fluxes) and dynamic (changes in ocean heat flux convergence) ocean coupling in the projected intensification of North Atlantic transient eddy kinetic energy (TEKE). We show that dynamic coupling accounts for nearly all of the future TEKE strengthening as it overcomes the much smaller effect of surface heat flux changes to weaken the TEKE. We further show that by reducing the Arctic amplification in the North Atlantic, ocean heat flux convergence increases the meridional temperature gradient aloft, causing a larger eddy growth rate and resulting in the strengthening of North Atlantic TEKE. Our results stress the importance of better monitoring and investigating the changes in ocean heat transport, for improving climate change adaptation strategies.

Journal of Climate, 35(8), 2407-2421
Laure Zanna
Laure Zanna
Professor of Mathematics & Atmosphere/Ocean Science [She/Her]

My research interests include Climate Dynamics, Physical Oceanography and Data Science.