The Future Intensification of the North Atlantic Winter Storm Track: The Key Role of Dynamic Ocean Coupling

Rei Chemke, Laure Zanna, Clara Orbe, Lori T. Sentman, Lorenzo M. Polvani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Climate models project an intensification of the wintertime North Atlantic Ocean storm track, over its downstream region, by the end of this century. Previous studies have suggested that ocean-atmosphere coupling plays a key role in this intensification, but the precise role of the different components of the coupling has not been explored and quantified. In this paper, using a hierarchy of ocean coupling experiments, we isolate and quantify the respective roles of thermodynamic (changes in surface heat fluxes) and dynamic (changes in ocean heat flux convergence) ocean coupling in the projected intensification of North Atlantic transient eddy kinetic energy (TEKE). We show that dynamic coupling accounts for nearly all of the future TEKE strengthening as it overcomes the much smaller effect of surface heat flux changes to weaken the TEKE. We further show that by reducing the Arctic amplification in the North Atlantic, ocean heat flux convergence increases the meridional temperature gradient aloft, causing a larger eddy growth rate and resulting in the strengthening of North Atlantic TEKE. Our results stress the importance of better monitoring and investigating the changes in ocean heat transport, for improving climate change adaptation strategies. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: By the end of this century, the North Atlantic Ocean storm track is projected to intensify on its eastward flank. Such intensification will have large societal impacts, mostly over western Europe. Thus, it is critical to better understand the mechanism underlying the intensification of the storm track. Here we investigate the role of ocean coupling in the future intensification of the North Atlantic storm track and find that ocean heat transport processes are responsible for the strengthening of the storm track. Our results suggest that better monitoring the changes in ocean heat transport will hopefully improve climate change adaption strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2407-2421
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2022


  • Atmosphere-ocean interaction
  • Dynamics
  • Eddies
  • General circulation models
  • Large-scale motions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The Future Intensification of the North Atlantic Winter Storm Track: The Key Role of Dynamic Ocean Coupling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this