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Keywords:

  • mesoscale cyclones;
  • Arctic hurricanes;
  • cold-air outbreaks

Abstract

The climatology of polar lows over the Nordic Seas has been investigated using infrared satellite images for the period between 2000 and 2009. The same region was studied in the 1980s using traditional weather charts for the period between 1972 and 1982. One motivation for the present study was to revisit this climatology, but using a different decade and taking advantage of the vastly improved coverage and dissemination of infrared satellite images since the 1980s. The fact that forecasters at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute had introduced a routine to register polar-low events systematically from 2000 and onward also provided a unique opportunity for extending the existing repository of subjectively identified polar-low observations. On average we found 12 polar-low events per year in the region of study. This is more than the earlier investigation, but we believe that this can be explained by the fact that the previous study relied almost uniquely on weather charts with very little information from ocean areas in the Nordic Seas. The largest numbers were found in January with an average of 2.8 polar-low events per year. The study reconfirms the February minimum found in previous studies, but on the basis of our data we could not show that this minimum is statistically significant. It is suggested that this may be explained as a manifestation of the coldest winter month, when a surface-pressure high over the Scandinavian mainland is common and the large-scale atmospheric flow is less favourable to polar-low formation. This hypothesis was tested by calculating the mean sea-level pressure (MSLP) anomaly for January, February and March from an atmospheric reanalysis. This revealed a positive anomaly over Scandinavia and northwest Russia not found in the pressure distributions for January and March. Copyright © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society