Multiple Indices of Northern Hemisphere Cyclone Activity, Winters 1949–99

Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

The National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP–NCAR) reanalysis is used to estimate time trends of, and analyze the relationships among, six indices of cyclone activity or forcing for the winters of 1949–99, over the region 20°–70°N. The indices are Eady growth rate and temperature variance, both at 500 hPa; surface meridional temperature gradient; the 95th percentile of near-surface wind speed; and counts of cyclones and intense cyclones. With multiple indices, one can examine different aspects of storm activity and forcing and assess the robustness of the results to various definitions of a cyclone index. Results are reported both as averages over broad spatial regions and at the resolution of the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis grid, for which the false discovery rate methodology is used to assess statistical significance.

The Eady growth rate, temperature variance, and extreme wind indices are reasonably well correlated over the two major storm track regions of the Northern Hemisphere as well as over northern North America and Eurasia, but weakly correlated elsewhere. These indices show moderately strong correlations with each of the two cyclone count indices over much of the storm tracks when the count indices are offset 7.5° to the north.

Regional averages over the Atlantic, the Pacific, and Eurasia show either no long-term change or a decrease in the total number of cyclones; however, all regions show an increase in intense cyclones. The Eady growth rate, temperature variance, and wind indices generally increase in these regions. On a finer spatial scale, these three indices increase significantly over the storm tracks and parts of Eurasia. The intense cyclone count index also increases locally, but insignificantly, over the storm tracks. The wind and intense cyclone indices suggest an increase in impacts from cyclones, primarily over the oceans.


Published In

J. Climate, 15, 1573-1590.