Synoptic Scale North American Weather Tracks and the Formation of North Atlantic Windstorms
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Each winter, dozens of fatalities occur when intense North Atlantic windstorms impact Western Europe. Forecasting the tracks of these storms in the short term is often problematic, but long term forecasts provide an even greater challenge. Improved prediction necessitates the ability to identify these low pressure areas at formation and understand commonalities that distinguish these storms from other systems crossing the Atlantic, such as where they develop. There is some evidence that indicates the majority of intense windstorms that reach Europe have origins far west, as low pressure systems that develop over the North American continent. This project aims to identify the specific cyclogenesis regions in North America that produce a significantly greater number of dangerous storms. NOAA Ocean Prediction Center surface pressure reanalysis maps are used to examine the tracks of storms. Strong windstorms are characterized by those with a central pressure of less than 965 hPa at any point in their life cycle. Tracks are recorded using a coding system based on source region, storm track and dissipation region. The codes are analyzed to determine which region contains the most statistical significance with respect to strong Atlantic windstorm generation. The resultant set of codes also serves as a climatology of North Atlantic extratropical cyclones. Results indicate that a number of windstorms favor cyclogenesis regions off the east coast of the United States. A large number of strong storms that encounter east coast cyclogenesis zones originate in the central mountain region, around Colorado. These storms follow a path that exits North America around New England and subsequently travel along the Canadian coast. Some of these are then primed to become “bombs” over the open Atlantic Ocean.