Geophysical Research Letters

Extreme Arctic cyclones in CMIP5 historical simulations


  • Stephen J. Vavrus

    Corresponding author
    1. Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
    • Corresponding author: S. J. Vavrus, Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1225 W. Dayton Street, Madison, WI 53706, USA. (

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[1] Increasing attention is being paid to extreme weather, including recent high-profile events involving very destructive cyclones. In summer 2012, a historically powerful cyclone traversed the Arctic, a region experiencing rapid warming and dramatic loss of ice and snow cover. This study addresses whether such powerful storms are an emerging expression of anthropogenic climate change by investigating simulated extreme Arctic cyclones during the historical period (1850–2005) among global climate models in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 5 (CMIP5) archive. These general circulation models are able to simulate extreme pressures associated with strong polar storms without a significant dependence on model resolution. The models display realism by generating extreme Arctic storms primarily around subpolar cyclone regions (Aleutian and Icelandic) and preferentially during winter. Simulated secular trends in Arctic mean sea level pressure and extreme cyclones are equivocal; both indicate increasing storminess in some regions, but the magnitude of changes to date are modest compared with future projections.