The impact of North Atlantic wind and cyclone trends on European precipitation and significant wave height in the Atlantic

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008 Dec:1146:212-34. doi: 10.1196/annals.1446.014.


An analysis of the frequency of cyclones and surface wind velocity for the Euro-Atlantic sector is performed by means of an objective methodology. Monthly and seasonal trends of cyclones and wind speed magnitude are computed and trends between 1960 and 2000 evaluated. Results reveal a significant frequency decrease (increase) in the western Mediterranean (Greenland and Scandinavia), particularly in December, February, and March. Seasonal and monthly analysis of wind magnitude trends shows similar spatial patterns. We show that these changes in the frequency of low-pressure centers and the associated wind patterns are partially responsible for trends in the significant height of waves. Throughout the extended winter months (October-March), regions with positive (negative) wind magnitude trends, of up to 5 cm/s/year, often correspond to regions of positive (negative) significant wave height trends. The cyclone and wind speed trends computed for January-March are well matched by the corresponding trends in significant wave height, with February being the month with the highest trends (negative south of lat 50 degrees N up to -3 cm/year, and positive up to 5 cm/year just north of Scotland). Trends in European precipitation are assessed using the Climatic Research Unit data set. The results of the assessment emphasize the link with the corresponding tendencies of cyclone frequencies. Finally, it is shown that these changes are associated, to a large extent, with the preferred phases of major large-scale atmospheric circulation modes, particularly with the North Atlantic Oscillation, the eastern Atlantic pattern, and the Scandinavian pattern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Cyclonic Storms*
  • Mediterranean Region
  • Rain*
  • Seasons
  • Wind*