Impacts of global warming on Northern Hemisphere winter storm tracks in the CMIP5 model suite.
A key question in assessing how global warming may affect climate is how it may impact day-to-day weather. To help answer this question, we evaluate the frequency and intensity of northern hemisphere storm tracks in the National Center for Climate Prediction (NCEP) reanalysis I dataset, and the historical, RCP4.5, and RCP8.5 climate scenarios featured in the CMIP5 simulations. We found that a warmer climate resulted in a general decrease in storm frequency in mid-latitudes, especially in RCP8.5. In contrast, frequency trends in the reanalysis data reflected an increase in the North Pacific consistent with a shift towards a positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and more frequent El Niño events post mid-1970's. An examination of frequency and intensity trends in the active storm track regions of the North Pacific and North Atlantic showed that a significant decrease in storm track frequency was evident for RCP8.5. In contrast, intensity trends were dichotomous, with RCP8.5 exhibiting an increase in intensity in the North Atlantic active storm track region and a decrease in intensity in the North Pacific active storm track region. Poleward of these regions, a significant decrease in storm intensity in the North Atlantic and a significant increase in intensity in the North Pacific in RCP8.5 occurred. We also examined the intensity distribution of storms in the active storm track regions of the North Atlantic and North Pacific and determined that the models produced weaker storms with reduced variability relative to reanalysis data regardless of external climate forcing.