Cyclones causing wind storms in the Mediterranean: characteristics, trends and links to large-scale patterns
Abstract. A climatology of cyclones with a focus on their relation to wind storm tracks in the Mediterranean region (MR) is presented. Trends in the frequency of cyclones and wind storms, as well as variations associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the East Atlantic/West Russian (EAWR) and the Scandinavian variability pattern (SCAND) are discussed.
The study is based on the ERA40 reanalysis dataset. Wind storm tracks are identified by tracking clusters of adjacent grid boxes characterised by extremely high local wind speeds. The wind track is assigned to a cyclone track independently identified with an objective scheme.
Areas with high wind activity – quantified by extreme wind tracks – are typically located south of the Golf of Genoa, south of Cyprus, southeast of Sicily and west of the Iberian Peninsula. About 69% of the wind storms are caused by cyclones located in the Mediterranean region, while the remaining 31% can be attributed to North Atlantic or Northern European cyclones.
The North Atlantic Oscillation, the East Atlantic/West Russian pattern and the Scandinavian pattern all influence the amount and spatial distribution of wind inducing cyclones and wind events in the MR. The strongest signals exist for the NAO and the EAWR pattern, which are both associated with an increase in the number of organised strong wind events in the eastern MR during their positive phase. On the other hand, the storm numbers decrease over the western MR for the positive phase of the NAO and over the central MR during the positive phase of the EAWR pattern. The positive phase of the Scandinavian pattern is associated with a decrease in the number of winter wind storms over most of the MR.
A third of the trends in the number of wind storms and wind producing cyclones during the winter season of the ERA40 period may be attributed to the variability of the North Atlantic Oscillation.